2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 31 Mar 2003 16:44:02 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF]Pacific Currents: Agent Orange shadows generations of Vietnamese
Pacific Currents: Agent Orange shadows generations of Vietnamese

BAC GIANG, Vietnam -- Five-year-old Phuong looks out at the world
through huge, sad eyes as she wiggles her shoulder deeper into her
mother's embrace.

Her attempt to hide is not just shyness. Phuong has already learned that
strangers are less interested in her sweet face, her gold earrings, her
cheerful cotton dress than in her left arm -- a useless stub that ends
just below the armpit.

Her other arm is normal, if you overlook the hand with only three
fingers. So are her legs and feet, though she has only nine toes. When
her mother tries to show visitors the deformities, Phuong cries

Nearly three decades after the Vietnam War ended, Agent Orange has
reached the third generation, and Phuong is another casualty.

Fully half of Vietnam's 82 million people were not yet born when the
last U.S. helicopter lifted off from Tan Son Nhat Air Base in the
frantic days of April 1975. For most of the others, trying to make their
way in this poor but vibrant nation, that time is part of their past,
not an issue in their daily lives.

Tan Son Nhat, once a U.S. military hub, is now a busy international
airport with duty-free merchandise for sale. Parts of the Ho Chi Minh
Trail, the supply route that crossed hundreds of miles of mountains and
jungles, have been incorporated into the north-south highway being
constructed down the western edge of the country. Farmland in central
Vietnam is scarred with huge bomb craters, some used now to raise

But if war is just one prism through which the history of Vietnam can be
viewed, it still refracts occasionally on the present and the future.
Agent Orange continues to claim victims. Land mines pock swaths of the
countryside. A generation of middle-aged Vietnamese women lack husbands
in this family-oriented culture.

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