Generations of Veterans Dealing With Invisible Wounds of Vietnam War
By LISA AUTRY
May 23, 2019
“Most all families have no clue that it can go on past one generation," Cowherd said at a Glasgow town hall. "I’ve talked to people where it’s skipped generations and gone into grandchildren. They say, ‘Now I know why my child is so sick all the time. Something finally makes sense."
Hardin County veteran Denzil Lile flips through a scrapbook, recalling his service in Vietnam. CREDIT LISA AUTRYMonday is Memorial Day, a time when the nation will pause to remember the men and women who died while serving in the military. More than four decades after the Vietnam War, some veterans in Kentucky and elsewhere say the conflict is still claiming casualties.
“This guy here, he and I were on the same team in Vietnam, said Hardin County veteran Denzil Lile. "That’s Billy Smith, he was the first one to get killed from Metcalfe County. Me and him was drafted on the same day.”
Denzil Lile looked through a scrapbook at the kitchen table in his apartment in Elizabethtown. There's one of him with a black Labrador Retriever.
“I was a dog handler. His name was Joey B-388, which he came from the British and was called the queen’s dog, Lile said. "They tracked. They worked more off of a ground scent.”
Lile is one of about 125,000 Kentuckians who served in the military during the Vietnam War and many were exposed to a harmful herbicide known as Agent Orange. The U.S. military sprayed the chemical to clear vegetation so Viet Cong wouldn’t have a hiding place, but the toxic chemicals did more than that. Agent Orange left a medical legacy for veterans and their families.
“I had a little blister to come up under my watch while I was in Vietnam, and for the next several years, my face would tan in different colors," recalled Lile. "I never thought much about it because it was just another thing you got in the jungle, until we got to hearing about it (Agent Orange) later on. I had a basal melanoma taken off my nose right here.”
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