A young, paralyzed man who lives in the countryside, on the outskirts of Hue, paralyzed from a birth defect created by Agent Orange.
In spite of the Vietnam War ending nearly 40 years ago, it is disheartening for me to say that there are many individuals still suffering from repercussions of the war. During the war, a chemical called Agent Orange was used. It was a defoliant sprayed by United State forces in hopes of clearing out forests to prevent southern Vietcong guerrilla warfare fighters from hiding in the terrain. Unfortunately, Agent Orange contains a chemical called dioxin, which causes severe terminal health consequences, such as, skin cancer, spina bifida, Down’s syndrome, paralysis, and many types of birth defects. These illnesses have been passed down from generation to generation of families exposed to high levels of these defoliants due to its long half life, families, such as, this young man in the photo above.
When I first met this man, he was someone that my grandmother often visited to donate money or clothes to. He lives with his mother who takes care of him, which I found very applaudable because many parents in a severe financial deficit normally put their children up for adoption, especially those with a disability. However, this strong, courageous woman continued to nurture her son in spite of her situation. A few weeks after meeting them, I decided to use this family as part of reflection paper and I learned from my professor that this young man was someone who was more than likely effected by Agent Orange given his location, paralysis, and evident number of other individuals having a similar disability living in the same area.
I was shocked when I learned this and felt entirely blind-sighted to the situation that was right before my eyes, but it also made me very thankful to be able to study abroad. If I did not study abroad, I would have never known of his family history or this country’s tragic past. Studying abroad has helped me develop a better understanding of Vietnam and a greater sympathy for tragic solutions that has not yet been solved yet. So, as you all travel or go about your lives, I encourage you all to try to educate yourself more on situations you walk blind sightedly into. I think it would bring quite a few more surprises.