10p.m, I arrived home after a tiring day. When I went online to read the newspapers I read an article saying: “Day for Agent Orange Victims August 10th “. Reading the article and thinking about today, I have realized one thing that I am luckier than many other people.
The war ended over 30 years ago, but the consequences it has left up to now are still present. The wounds caused by Agent Orange still seriously affect the health of many people in Vietnam. “Ha Thi Hai, who lives in Dong Hoa commune, Thai Binh city, possesses a deformed body, one short leg and one long leg. Every step she walks she must struggle with pain since the consequences of Agent Orange have made her skeletal muscles deformed and shrunken. Yet she is still the “luckiest” child in a family with 5 people infected with Agent Orange. Hai was still conscious enough to go to school, but only until the end of grade 4. Hai had to quit school to stay home with her little siblings. Two siblings of Hai are abnormal. When awake, the two children are the main laborers in the family because Hai’s parents are old and regularly sick. However, “the two main laborers” have given their neighbours many serious frights as they have suffered relapsing attacks from Agent Orange while transplanting rice seedlings in the field .
That is just one case out of many cases of Agent Orange victims that I heard and witnessed with my own eyes. A fortnight ago, I received an invitation to attend the walking day of “Youth’s Aspiration Club” and I signed up with a simple idea that I would have another trip with my friends. Then the other day, I heard Miss. Trang (Plan’s Representative at REACH) talk about this walk, I was eager to see. I came very early, from the time when the roads were not blocked, from the moment people started setting the stage and hanging banners. I raised a smile when I witnessed the scene that mothers and old women asked the police about the way to participate in the walking day. Honestly, at that time, the victims of Agent Orange was still something vague to me. I simply thought that it was a disease with no known cure, a disease that was somewhere far away but not in my place, not in this land of Hanoi.
Then I met real people who have never been happy or fulfilled, met those who have never known the joy of life when they had to carry the scars and consequences of this toxic substance – Agent Orange. Now I understand how terrible this chemical that the Americans spread in Vietnam is. I did not dare look at them and I felt sorry that I was born healthy, but that they were not.. I was truly touched when I met them, I felt myself so small.
I suddenly realized what I did today means more than ever. It helps me to understand that in this life there are a lot of less lucky people. I thank the soldiers who fought and sacrificed for our country. They did not hesitate to lay down their lives to defend the country. Condolences to all victims of Agent Orange; your disadvantage is a great sacrifice and the greatest thing that you have contributed to this life.
Hopefully one day we will find a solution to treat Agent Orange symptoms.
Dang Thi Dung – Alumnus of Sales & Marketing class – Batch 20, Hanoi REACH Center