We've all heard about the life-long effects that war can have on human life. Effects of war can include mass destruction of cities and long lasting effects on a country's economy. Citizens can turn into refugees and there are possibly mass killings of men, woman and children alike. The disastrous effect it has can last for lifetimes and even centuries.
When a war arises, no matter the cause - there are no real winners. Everyone and everything that war touches suffers.
Information is readily available to explain the mental effects that war can have on those who experienced it first hand - such as soldiers. Death, injury, sexual violence, malnutrition, illness, and disability are some of the most threatening physical consequences of war, while post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety are some of the emotional effects.
But what about the families of those who serve? I am a daughter of war and this is my story.
The United States military used a herbicide known as Agent Orange to clear plants, trees, and other foliage during the Vietnam War without regard to the potential health issues caused by herbicide exposure. My father was only one of hundreds of men who were completely saturated with this "poison".
Chronic B-Cell Leukemia• Chloracne• Diabetes Type 2• Hodgkin’s Disease• Hormone Disruption• Heart Disease• Multiple Myeloma• Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma• Parkinson’s Disease• Peripheral Neuropathy• Prostate Cancer• and Respiratory Cancers are to name only a few of the diseases caused by Agent Orange exposure.
♦ I inherited several of these complications from my father. Ailments that will most probably prevent me from living a long, substantial life - just like my father. (as suggested by my many doctors)
The children of Vietnam veterans and occasionally even their grandchildren can also suffer with significant health problems from Agent Orange exposure.
I now live with the curse of watching my own children and wondering when and if they too will suffer the consequences of that dreadful war that took place long before their time.
It's gut-wrenching, frightening and heart-stopping to be informed that you have inherited health issues that very well may kill you, and then to be told that your own children could also be affected and touched by the same horror.
As a child I watched the emotional and physical effects that the war had on my father, it affected our entire family.
Sometimes he drank heavily when the burdens were too heavy to bear. He didn't talk about his experiences often, but when he did I could see his teeth clench. He turned into a man that I didn't recognize.
I woke up many, many nights hearing him screaming. I frantically watched as my mother practically laid her entire body on top of him to hold him down. This happened more frequently during storms when the thunder and lightning echoed through the house. You never get use to something like that. It's absolutely spine-chilling. For this reason he never really allowed me to have friends stay all night - He was ashamed. I guess that I was somewhat ashamed as well.
The 4th of July was one of the worst times. The loud booms and bright flashes were just too much for him. Naturally, I wasn't allowed to have fireworks or celebrate the occasion like other children. We usually went camping as far away from the celebrations and excitement as possible.
♦ As an adult, I too have dreadful reactions to sudden loud noises. I suppose it's only natural after living most of my life in silence and being as quiet as possible. I refuse to have a telephone in my house, the sudden loud rings send me into a panic just like when someone unexpectedly knocks on the door.
I'm a Daughter of War so these things are hereditary and habitual. Although living with these backwashes is flustering and uncomfortable to say the very least.
The array of medications that I am required to take on a daily basis just to make it through the day can mostly be linked back to repercussions of the war. My health problems began when I was only fifteen years old and have haunted me all throughout my life. I have had so many operations, my doctor once chaffed and stated that I had lost almost every organ and body part that I can live without. This is true, but what happens to me when the one's that I do need go bad? I will be another one of the unknown, unspoken casualties of war - A war that I had no part in, yet I live with every moment of my life.
I am a Daughter of War - From a country that I am proud of and yet detest for what it has done to me. I will eventually parish as a result of the Vietnam War, but not on a blood-stained shore in a foreign land with dignity and pride, but instead amongst people who will never understand how war affects everyone it touches.
Even if it touched me with it's extinct, phantom fingers - It touched me just the same.