My Dad and Agent Orange: Why it’s personal to me

Retirement day for CMSgt James E. Henderson in 1971 after more than 20 years in the United States Air Force shown here with his wife and four daughters.

This blog post was written by Heidi Zimmerman

I want to share with you why this Agent Orange Awareness Day is personal to me.

My Dad served our country proudly in the United States Air Force for more than 20 years including volunteering for a tour in Vietnam in 1967. He was stationed at Bien Hoa Air Base – where the toxic defoliant known as Agent Orange was stored. To this day, the area is still a hotspot for Agent Orange exposure.

Luckily, my Dad returned home. Like many other Vietnam veterans, it wasn’t until years later that illnesses related to his service came to light. He was diagnosed with Agent Orange-related prostate cancer in 1996 and fought it until his death in 2002. While his remaining years were marked by his struggle, my sisters and I were fortunate that he returned from Vietnam and we had those years with him.

Here is the remembrance that I’m leaving for him which will be placed at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Site along with an orange candle –

Dad – I think of you every day and the parts of my life that you’ve missed. You weren’t here to walk me down the aisle at my wedding or when my children were born. I look at my children and think of the Poppa they will never know and what they’ve missed out on. I know you would have loved having granddaughters. I light this candle in your memory and to remind others of the impact the Vietnam War had on my family and so many others.

While this is my story – it’s like thousands of others who have watched their Vietnam veteran battle another enemy after returning home. Fortunately, many Americans haven’t had to personally endure Agent Orange’s terrible effects like we have but because of that, too few know much about it.

That’s why we’re trying to change that, and you can help.

Building awareness around the impact of Agent Orange exposure on America’s veterans and their families is at the heart of our first-ever Agent Orange Awareness Day on August 10th.

I hope you will join us in this endeavor. Today is the final day to purchase one of our Agent Orange Awareness t-shirts. Proceeds for the sales of these shirts goes to VVMF programs such as the In Memory program – which honors those service members like my Dad – who returned home and later died.

In addition to bringing awareness to Agent Orange by proudly wearing your shirt, you can also sponsor an orange candle to be lit on the site of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC on August 10th. Together we’ll light up the Memorial site and help BRING LIGHT to this important cause that too few Americans know about.

Heidi Zimmerman

Proud daughter of James E. Henderson, Vietnam veteran and 2004 In Memory Honoree

Vice President, Programs & Communications