It never ends. Agent Orange destroys every aspect of life that one person can have. I was told once “Kelly, I’m sorry, but your Father never had a chance.” He died only one month after turning 37 in 1982. I was the 7 year old little girl he left behind. It appears to me now that I never had a chance either.
Recently, a sophomore from University of Oregon was interviewing me about Agent Orange for her term paper asked one final question, “What aspect of your childhood did Agent Orange have the most impact?” Followed by, if I was uncomfortable answering I did not have to. That statement has been made hundreds of times to me. I always answer the questions. Immediately, I had a flash of a memory that would form my answer to her, a memory that I think until last Friday only 3 people knew of. “My Father died when I was in second grade, one day on the bus going home from school, a girl named Rachel W. started arguing with me about something stupid. As the bus began to make its turn to my stop, I began moving to the front so that I could get off and run. I did not know at that point that in the 10 seconds to follow that turn, I would want to run for my life and never stop. The last words that came from Rachel’s mouth that would pierce my eardrums for the rest of my life were, “Hey Kelly, at least I still have a father.” So, I said to the college student “in every way shape and form of my childhood, my father’s death was what impacted me the most in regards to Agent Orange.” It did not just impact my childhood though, Agent Orange and the resulting death of my father has impacted every aspect of my entire life. Every choice, every decision, every twist, every turn, every illness, every fear, every tear, every relationship, or should I just say, there’s NOTHING, NOT ONE MOMENT, of my life that hasn’t been impacted by Agent Orange and the death of my father.
I’m tired, I’m angry, I’m sick, I’m 38. I’m fighting a war every day that, to most, ended decades ago. Long after the protests, ignorance, boots on the ground, and clearing of jungles have ended, we are still fighting the Vietnam War. Agent Orange, the chemical war that has never ended. Agent Orange, the defoliant used to clear the jungles of Vietnam so our soldiers could have an “advantage” over the “enemy”. Agent Orange, the Dioxin ridden carcinogen as lethal as radioactive waste in the bodies of our soldiers, in the bodies of their children, in the bodies of their children’s children, in my body.
In my father’s obituary, it is written and quoted that my father, Harry C. Mackel Jr., said he felt like he had a bomb ticking inside of him. He knew the bomb was Agent Orange. He knew. I know. We all know. Millions of us know all over the world and yet, until the United States Government actually comes out and publicly states that THEY KNEW, we will continue spinning on this never ending hamster wheel of life. The life of Agent Orange.
I will never stop fighting for the millions of us that are sick and dying because of Agent Orange and Dioxin exposures, the Veterans, the children like me, and the innocent all over this world who have been effected by this nightmare. Agent Orange is a colorless, silent, ruthless killer. Agent Orange is by every definition of the word, a murderer, a serial killer. In essence, those of us still living are walking crime scenes.
I may still be a walking, breathing human being but, Agent Orange murdered me on October 14, 1982. The same date it murdered my father.
© Kelly L. Derricks
(COVVHA) Children Of Vietnam Veterans Health Alliance INC.