Nearly 20 years ago CNY Central's Jim Kenyon exposed evidence that the chemical defoliant agent orange was partially developed and tested by the army at Fort Drum near Watertown in the 1950's.
Later, Agent Orange used extensively in the Vietnam War in the late 60's and early 70's exposing up to 1.5 million American soldiers to a toxic poison that was later linked to cancer and other illnesses. Among those soldiers was Sergeant Lawrence Hackett who left his home in Onondaga County to serve in Vietnam. Hackett died of cancer in 2006 at the age of 56.
Onondaga County Judge Joseph Fahey was his best friend when Hackett returned home from the war. " He built a wonderful life here and three decades later he discovered that the war had followed him home." Fahey told reporters at an event at the Onondaga County War Memorial Wednesday.
After Hackett's death, Fahey joined with vets to persuade the government to take greater responsibility for the deadly consequences of agent orange. "I continue to be angry about what occurred and the inaction about it. I will not give up that effort." Fahey said.
Fahey's effort may soon pay off. Central New York Congressman Dan Maffei has introduced the "Lawrence Hackett Vietnam Veterans Agent Orange Fairness Act."
The Agent Orange Fairness Act would force the government to deal with another disturbing legacy of the Vietnam conflict. There's growing evidence that the children and grandchildren of veterans exposed to agent orange are suffering birth defects and other illnesses.
Maffei says his bill "would require the VA to establish a task force to conduct a comprehensive review to assess and make recommendations about the care and compensations of Vietnam Veterans agent orange victims and their children and grandchildren."
The Task Force would have two years to report back to congress with recommendations on how to take compensate and care for vietnam vets and their families still feeling the effects of agent orange.