Memorial Honors Veterans Losing the War to Agent Orange

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ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- It's been more than 40 years since service men and women returned home from Vietnam and yet the war continues to take a toll on many veterans. One local group is recognizing their comrades in an ongoing battle with Agent Orange.

The ringing of this bell is a bittersweet sound when it hits the ears of Navy veteran Bob Wood.

"He (Richard) found me in San Diego and said I'm joining your ship and serving in your division," Wood said.

His brother Richard surprised him on Bob's ship, the U.S.S. Tulare in 1965. The duo served in Vietnam together, they came home together, however they did not make it to retirement together.

"Leukemia, diabetes and 17 years of hospitals and medical problems,” Wood said. “He died just before his 65th birthday when he was going to retire."

Richard's is one of seven names on this wall, at the Vietnam Veterans LZ Peace memorial, who succumbed to the effects of Agent Orange, a chemical sprayed across millions of acres of land. It's one of the nation's only memorials dedicated to those who died because of it.

Agent Orange Committee Chairman, John Paddock says it’s been a struggle to make happen

"These are the first seven but I have many more names in my briefcase I'm trying to get approved," Paddock said.

Individuals qualify if they are honorably discharged and verified as serving in Vietnam. Something Wood says is not always so clear.

"It doesn't say specifically you served in Vietnam, but they didn't keep records back then," Wood said. However to some like him less is more, "I just hope they stop someday with these names because there are too many of them."

Wood says he helps veterans prove they were in Vietnam by checking ship logs and in some cases, requesting letters from ship captains.

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