STATEWIDE — Chellie Pingree, Maine’s First District Representative has signed on as a co-sponsor of the Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act of 2011, a bill introduced by Rep Bob Filner of California. The legislation, if passed, will address ongoing health problems of United States veterans as well as Vietnamese and Vietnamese-Americans harmed by their exposure to the defoliant used by the U.S. during the Vietnam war.
Pingree’s decision to support the legislation came following a meeting with a delegation of the Maine chapter of Veterans for Peace. Led by co-presidents Peggy Akers and Clarence Smith, both of Portland, the veterans met with the Congresswoman in her Maine office. Akers, a veteran who served as a nurse in Vietnam, and Smith, a Korean War-era vet, emphasized in the meeting the lasting impact of the toxin. Bob Lezer, served on the Korean DMZ, where he was himself exposed to Agent Orange, spoke of the significance of the bill as it relates to accepting full accountability for the costs of war.
Maine Veterans for Peace (VFP) have met with both Maine representatives, Pingree and Mike Michaud, as part of the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign, a VFP project seeking support of Filner’s bill HR 2634. The veterans argue that the legislation offers an opportunity to heal the suffering and wounds from the Vietnam conflict. Pingree joins 11 other representatives who have co-sponsored while Rep Michaud has not yet signed on.
In addition to providing assistance for both American and Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange, HR 2634 calls for remediation of hot spots in areas in Vietnam that remain contaminated. Over 19 million gallons of different herbicides, including 13 million gallons of Agent Orange were sprayed over Vietnam 50 years ago. The contaminated soils and waters of the country have been found to be related to the inordinate incidence of cancers, birth defects, and other anomalies among the Americans and Vietnamese exposed.
“Representative Pingree’s support is very important.” stated Akers. “It’s an indication of her awareness of the true costs of war.”
The Maine Veterans for Peace chapter is one of over 130 in the country. It’s members are dedicated to and work for the abolishment of war. Much of their work has revolved around healing the wounds of war. The local chapter organizes an annual PTSD Symposium for the benefit of victims, their families, and health care practitioners. Monthly meetings are held, on a rotating basis in Portland, Lewiston, Brunswick, and Augusta. For more information, call Clarence at 799-6741 or visit vfpmaine.org.