Kenneth Young, 64, recently received both an invitation to give a workshop on Agent Orange on the “Peace Boat” and a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his volunteer work with veterans’ groups.
His wife, Chris, said Young specifically addresses Agent Orange issues.
“It is a pollutant, a herbicide, that makes people ill,” she noted. “He does awareness.”
She added her husband likely was nominated for the Jubilee Medal by someone in one of his groups, or by someone he has helped.
“He gives speeches throughout Canada, representing Agent Orange,” she explained, adding he also went to Vietnam last year for an international conference.
Young said Agent Orange is made from 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D (types of herbicides). But it was made even more dangerous in that when these two chemicals were mixed at such high temperatures, they created TCDD dioxin.
“A small contaminate, a side effect . . . but the one killing everyone,” he stressed.
During the Vietnam War, “it was supposedly used to defoliate the jungle to see the enemy [by the United States],” noted Young.
But even in this area, “the same chemicals were used to control broadleaf,” he added.
Young said Vietnam has suffered the most from the side effects Agent Orange caused, including “birth defects, 15 different types of cancers, diabetes, and destroying the immune system.”
There are an estimated 300,000-500,000 third-generation casualties, some of which he noticed while in Vietnam last year.
Young said the dioxin has the ability to change DNA, thus “it could affect children or grandchildren”—even if they were not directly exposed to the chemicals.
“[The U.S. government] sprayed a lot in Vietnam,” he noted.
Canada, however, also played a role. “Canada produced a lot of it for the U.S., and they tested it in Gagetown, N.B. between 1956 and 1984,” Young said.
“They sprayed 3.3 million pounds in New Brunswick,” he noted. “We’re involved whether we want to admit it or not.”
After learning about all of this, and realizing that nothing was being done about the issue, Young decided to get involved about seven years ago.
He is a founding member of VETS (Veterans Emergency Transition Services) and Veterans Advocacy, which help fight for the rights of veterans who have been affected by things such as Agent Orange and deal with issues the government ignores.
“It is quite an honour standing up for veterans,” he said.
Young also finds it ironic he’s getting a medal for addressing issues the federal government is not doing anything about.
He said the government spends millions helping other countries in need, yet it ignores issues going on here in Canada.
“Why can’t they take care of their own casualties of Agent Orange?” he wondered.
His wife said it is because of all of his work raising awareness about Agent Orange that he will be on the “Peace Boat” from Japan to Vietnam in August.
“It’s a floating university really,” she explained. “It travels the world and the message is peace.”
During the six-day voyage, Young “will be conducting an awareness workshop for students in regards to Agent Orange,” his wife noted.