War is hell. Many veterans carry physical scars for the rest of their days. Others are emotionally wounded, suffering through their experiences for years or a lifetime. But one of the most studied, yet still not complete understood aspects of military service, is toxic exposure.

Toxic exposure is insidious. Studies have shown that Agent Orange can directly affect a person’s DNA, leading to a wide range of health issues. Even worse, those changes to the DNA are passed to their children, which can lead to a host of medical problems.

Agent Orange isn’t alone: toxic exposure is affecting veterans of Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan. Combat service isn’t required: the VA recently announced a presumption of service connection for certain diseases associated with contaminants found in the early 1980s at the Marine Corps Base in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

What can a veteran do? A good first step would be to educate yourself by attending an upcoming event.

The Toxic Exposure / Agent Orange & Veteran’s Health Issues Town Hall will be held 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 30, at the Winston Community Center, 440 SE Grape Ave., Winston. The event is hosted by the Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America Umpqua Chapter 805.

The event will begin with a meet-and-greet, complete with ice cream and hot dogs, followed by a town hall. The event offers an opportunity for people to share their knowledge and experiences, and become aware of resources available.

“We’ve talked to hundreds of people at other events who had an inkling of an idea that something was wrong,” said Linda Mooney, AVVA President. “Who had children who were having trouble, and their children having trouble.”

Who should consider attending? All veterans, certainly, with their families. But veterans of Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq, and Afghanistan are particularly encouraged.

“We feel we are successful if we can reach even one person,” Mooney. “We are here, our arms are out to hold them. We can’t fix it, but we can work to make it better.”

For more information about the event, contact Linda Mooney at 541-679-4205.

The VA has set up a website to help veterans and their families better understand toxic exposure, related illnesses, and what they can do: www.publichealth.va.gov

Follow the links on the website to learn more about your exposure, setting up a health exam, and more.

God bless our veterans and God bless America.

Do you have information of interest to Douglas County veterans? Contact me at jd.mcdonald.jd@gmail.com or 541-580-6178. I’m a combat veteran with more than 18 years of military service. I serve in the Oregon National Guard. I’m also a member of the Douglas County Veterans Forum, the Douglas County Veterans Advisory Committee, the Patrick W. Kelley VFW Post 2468 and the Earle B. Stewart American Legion Post 16.

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