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I invite you to tune in to Beyond the Fence which airs every Friday at noon on Public Radio Guam-KPRG 89.3 FM, immediately following Democracy Now. This one hour locally produced program features coverage of public events and interviews with diverse individuals that explore the complexities of the US military presence in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands and the challenges of building community ‘beyond the fence.’ Audio podcasts of most episodes are available for free and may be downloaded within five days of the original broadcast by going to the Beyond the Fence program link at www.kprgfm.com or directly to http://kprg.podbean.com/
Ep. 149 “Agent Orange on Guam, Part 1: Sprayed and Betrayed” (hosted by Dr. Vivian Dames with production assistance of Joy White) was recorded 11/17/12 and airs 5/31/13.
Since the 2006 announcement of the planned relocation of US marines from Okinawa to Guam, we have learned much about the commonalities between these two heavily militarized island communities with extended colonial histories. Another commonality is the reported use in Guam and Okinawa of Agent Orange (AO) herbicides which the US Department of Defense denies, despite mounting evidence. Since the release in 1994 of the first comprehensive report on Veterans and Agent Orange by the Institute of Medicine, an informal network has emerged seeking recognition and compensation for these veterans and their dependents.
Program guests are retired disabled US Air Force veterans MSgt. Leroy G. Foster (RetAirForceMan@aol.com) and Sgt. Ralph A. Stanton (firstname.lastname@example.org) who are key figures in the struggle to uncover the extent of damage done to veterans, their dependents, and civil service employees stationed at Anderson Air Force Base-Guam during the Vietnam War period, as well local civilians affected by the legacy of this toxic contamination. [For more information, go to http://www.guamagentorange.info]
For ten years, from 1969-78, Leroy Foster handled, mixed by hand, and sprayed Agent Orange herbicides on Guam. He sprayed often along the Air Force fuel pipelines and Marbo Barracks Complex and fuel tank farms at Tumon, Potts Junction, AAFB Andy I and II fuel tank farms and flightline areas, along with hydrant pump houses and perimeter/security fencing. He now lives in Westfield, New York and suffers a litany of AO related autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. He is convinced that the chronic health problems of his daughter and the multiple birth defects of his granddaughter are also related to his AO exposure.
Foster’s struggle with the Department of Veteran Affairs began in December 1987 and continues to this day. Although hundreds of veterans are claiming compensation for AO exposure on Guam, Foster is one of the few whose claim for direct exposure (but with no mention of Guam) has been approved. This weekend he is going to Washington DC to attend his Board of Veterans Affairs appeal hearing. He seeks to have Guam specifically indicated on his decision as the site of exposure to document the truth of what happened and to help other claimants and the people of Guam. He anticipates this may be the last time he will be going to the nation’s capitol to challenge the “Delay until they die” stance of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He says, “The next time I go will be in a coffin to Arlington Cemetery.”
Ralph Stanton was stationed at AAFB in 1969-70. He performed maintenance and repairs daily on fuel storage and delivery systems which were sprayed often with herbicides. He now lives in Savannah, Missouri, and also suffers several debilitating AO related diseases but was denied his claim for direct exposure to Agent Orange. The official reasons for this denial are that “data from the Department of Defense does not show any use, testing or storage of tactical herbicides, including Agent Orange, at any location on Guam,” and that “The Joint Services Records Research Center does not document the spraying, testing or storage of Agent Orange Anderson Air Force Base, Guam”. Stanton appealed this decision on 10/9/11. A hearing was held 15 months later on 3/5/13 which Sgt. Foster attended and provided testimony. A decision on Sgt. Stanton’s appeal is still pending.
The testimonies of Leroy Foster and Ralph Stanton parallel what has happened in Okinawa where dozens of former service members and local civilians have spoken out about the use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War and its toxic legacy. While the U.S. government has approved several individual claims, it continues to deny that Agent Orange was ever kept, buried or used on Okinawa. As a result, hundreds of sick American veterans have been refused medical assistance and the Japanese government has been able to reject calls from citizen’s groups for health surveys and environmental testing and mitigation. [see the award winning film documentary entitled “Defoliated Island – Agent Orange, Okinawa and the Vietnam War” by Asia-Pacific Journal affiliate Jon Mitchell.]
Music selection: “Agent Orange Song’ by Country Joe McDonald
Please forward this announcement to your respective networks and encourage listeners to submit their comments on line. Suggestions for future topics and guests or requests to be removed or added to this contact list may be sent to email@example.com.
Thank you for listening to and supporting public radio for the Marianas — and for promoting Beyond the Fence, locally and abroad.
Vivian Loyola Dames, Ph.D.
Anchor Host & Coordinator
Beyond the Fence – Public Radio Guam
UOG Station, Mangilao Guam 96923
Our studio is located in Mangilao on the campus of the University of Guam, Dean’s Circle #13 next to the Isla Center for the Arts.