This summer, ProPublica and our partners at The Virginian-Pilot asked Vietnam-era veterans to help us investigate the generational impact of Agent Orange exposure by sharing their stories with us. More than 3,400 people have done so, including nearly 600 spouses, sons and daughters of veterans. Many of these relatives are concerned that their veteran's health problems — and sometimes their own — may be tied to wartime exposure to the toxic chemicals.
Mary said she believes her husband Robert's health issues — which include Parkinson's disease – are connected to Agent Orange. Robert served as an Army nurse in 1967 and 1968 in Da Nang, Vietnam.
"Robert worked in evacuation hospitals on the front lines," Mary wrote. "He met and helped evacuate the wounded from the medical helicopters, removed their contaminated clothing and prepared them for surgical procedures."
Tamara suspects her father Stanley's heart and neurological issues are tied to his service in the Army's 25th Infantry Division, which also operated in Da Nang.
"My father explains about being completely covered in Agent Orange during his tour in Vietnam," Tamara wrote. "He was in constant contact with the ground and foliage. He suffers from severe [pulmonary disease] and is oxygen dependent due to breathing Agent Orange and living IN IT!"
Four decades after the fall of Saigon, these families and many other Vietnam veterans are struggling with health problems they say are related to Agent Orange.
Interview a Veteran for StoryCorps
We'd like to hear from more families about their Agent Orange concerns, and continue to ask vets and their families to fill out our questionnaire. But we're doing something more: We have teamed up with StoryCorps to gather oral histories from Vietnam veterans and their families. Anyone can participate by recording an interview with the StoryCorps smartphone app, and by adding the keywords "propublica" and "agent orange," we will be able to gather these interviews together in one place as part of the ProPublica Agent Orange project. With permission, StoryCorps will also archive these interviews with the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. This video shows you how to participate (you can also download a printer-friendly version of these instructions here):
- Download the StoryCorps app to your Apple or Android device, and choose "sign up" to create an account (you can sign up with Facebook)
- Once you're ready to record, tap the + icon in the StoryCorps app to create a new interview. You can choose "prepare an interview" to save a list of interview questions in the app, or simply write them out on a piece of paper. Click "record an interview" to get started.
- Swipe right and left to view questions as you conduct your interview. The app includes some good starter questions from StoryCorps. Please be sure to also ask the ProPublica questions outlined below to participate in our Reliving Agent Orange project.
- Take a photo
- Next, you can add more information about your interview. You must include a title and please remember to use the keywords "propublica" and "agent orange" to be included in the ProPublica Agent Orange project. Please also include your name and the name of your veteran in the Participants section. Click "save" when you're finished.
- Publish your interview. It will be published at StoryCorps.me, archived with the Library of Congress, and may be featured in ProPublica's Reliving Agent Orange.
- Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the link of your finished StoryCorps.me recording. We look forward to listening!
Reliving Agent Orange Interview Questions
Here are a few questions to ask your veteran about their Vietnam service and their experience with Agent Orange. We may include your interview in our Reliving Agent Orange series.
- Ask your veteran to introduce themselves: What is your name? When and where did you serve in Vietnam? What was your station and rank?
- Were you exposed to Agent Orange? Where and how?
- If exposed, have you suffered any health problems or long-term effects from that exposure? Have your children?
- Have you sought benefits for Agent Orange related issues? What was that process like?
- Is there anything else we should know about your Vietnam service?
More from our Agent Orange investigation: