Friday, June 18, 2010

Agent Orange Elegy

"They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end. Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven."

Psalms, 107:23-30, KJV
One of the saddest duties is dealing with the death of a shipmate. Recently, the Veterans Association of Sailors of the Vietnam War lost two of our members to the ravages of the diseases caused by herbicide exposure.  Rich Appling, ExIntrepid to those who knew him, who served on the USS Intrepid CVA 11, and Bruce Langston who served on board the USS Takelma ATF 113, both served gallantly in the Vietnam War on board their ships.  The fact remains that we are reduced in numbers by two more. We mourn their passing as they were our shipmates. But they have gone home now.  Our loss is nothing compared to the loss of the widows left behind.  We pray for Rose and Ann, two strong, wonderful ladies, the kind of ladies the Blue Water Sailors are known for marrying.  To them we pay our respects so that they might know that we honor and love them.  Rich and Bruce were fortunate to have them, and they were fortunate to have Rich and Bruce. 

Shakespeare talks of sailors in his play, the Tempest:
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! now I hear them — Ding-dong, bell.
The great English metaphysical poet John Donne wrote in his Meditation XVII:
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
Now we must recall the good times, when the calm sea mirrored the many colors of the sky, the starlit night sky in warm waters, the sun that rose and set with such great speed, leaving a red-gold path between you and it.

And so we offer a final "Hand Salute" to Shipmates Rich and Bruce! "Two"!

Calm seas, shipmates, calm seas.

"Ding-dong...Ding-dong, bell."


”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Obama Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

Copyright © 2005-2010: VNVets Blog -- Now in our Sixth Year of Service to Veterans; All Rights Reserved.


  1. My sincerest condolences to those left behind, Rose and Ann. Fairwell to thee my fallen brothers...fairwell to thee. Very nicely done. May God rest their souls for eternity. Sincerely....Gary W. Halsey Sr.

    It was another brilliant Battle Plan;
    It would help the Soldier in his bitter fight.
    It would make the jungle passable,
    It would turn the darkness into light.
    Defoliant Agents is what they were called.
    There was Agent Orange and Agents White and Blue.
    20 million gallons were sprayed in South Vietnam.
    It killed mangrove forests, thickets, and jungle too.
    "That Agent Orange really works!
    Now patrols can see what lies ahead.
    No more snipers sitting in the trees,
    Just waiting to shoot our troopers dead."
    "No more slashing through the brush.
    We can walk the trail without a sound.
    The choppers can see us down below,
    We can see what's happening all around."
    Back in Washington our leaders smiled and said:
    "This is the break we've been waiting for.
    Agent Orange has leveled the playing field.
    With the jungle gone, we can do much more."
    But it seems there were other effects as well.
    How could we know? Not a word was said.
    Only in later years would the truth be told:
    Those agents can cause you to be sick or dead.
    Now thousands suffer from a dread disease:
    Leukemia, Lymphoma, Neuropathy are just a few.
    Defects in childbirth and Cancers are commonplace;
    Melanoma, Chloracne and Diabetes are listed too.
    We were sent to bring Freedom to a foreign land.
    We had faith in our cause and we served with pride.
    But nature took her revenge in a most fateful way.
    We were touched by an Agent. We had no place to hide.

    Frank J. Montoya
    9th Inf. Div. Vietnam 1967-68