The following is a personal story submitted to Civilian Exposure and published as part of our new series: “Contamination Chronicles: Personal Stories of Exposure”. If you would like to submit your story, you may fill out our form here or send directly via email to share-@-civilianexposure.org.
In 2010, I suddenly couldn’t walk due to the pain in my feet. I was diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy. I served on Shemya, Alaska in 1964. The VA tested me, confirmed the diagnosis, but failed to recognize the disability. I flew on Air Force transports carrying Agent Orange.
My condition was a documented illness associated with exposure. Since then, I have learned of the toxic conditions of the water supply as well. The VA position was “boots on the ground” was the only Agent Orange exposure recognized. Peripheral neuropathy was the top statistical effect, but only recognized if it occurred within 12 months of exposure. However, eight veterans sued in 2013 and won. All were boots on the ground and their peripheral neuropathy didn’t show until after the age of 50.
Since then, the Air Force listed Shemya as a storage site for Agent Orange as well. Beginning in the 1980’s, Air Force personnel began flying in Air Force transports carrying AO during the Viet Nam war. They soon began exhibiting similar effects of AO.
Shemya was never a pristine island. How many suffered medical disability I don’t know. But more than one.
Note from the Editor: The author currently resides in California. The account/editorial is verbatim from the author without edit, with only the omission of their name to preserve anonymity.