‘A Glimpse into Our Wars’

This is one of the displays that you look through 100-year-old windows. The exhibit shown in this picture includes a Vietnamese to English translation book, Vietnamese Flag, spent 40mm cartridges and letters home from 1968.

Everyone in Cocke County should be looking in their trunks, attics and barns for military items they or a relative might have brought home or just kept from their experiences serving in the military. It is time for the 2nd Annual “A Glimpse into Our Wars,” military art and artifacts exhibit.

Our first exhibit, last November, was displayed at the Newport Community Center. With the support of the staff and especially Virginia Arington, the program was a wonderful experience. With the prospect of having more to exhibit we looked for a larger space.

We reached out to the Tennessee National Guard for approval to use the Armory to hold this year’s show. As with all of us who have served who have experienced the “hurry up and wait” the paperwork had many channels to go through for approval. This week we were given permission to use the Armory for this year’s program.

Last year’s exhibit had over 100 pieces of military related items that ranged from a WWI discharge to a “camp” setup from Iraq. There are black and white photos taken by a combat photographer during the Vietnam War that have not been seen since 1968. Prints from the Marine Corps Combat Collection depict action from Desert Storm and Afghanistan.

After the 2018 exhibit was over, many people shared that they have things they would like to have displayed. Now is the time to dig them out, dust them off and get a hold of me so we can make arrangements to see how we can properly show them to the visitors.

We will have lots more space so big objects will not be a problem. Old uniforms, gear, letters home, photos, trinkets, discharges, vehicles, just to name a few, can be shown. My contact information is at the end of the column. If there is no answer I am probably without signal, so please leave a message and I will call you back.

This year’s 2nd Annual, “A Glimpse into Our Wars” Military Art and Artifacts, will be sponsored by a newly formed local group “Veterans in Focus.” The exhibit will be held November 1,2,3 and 8,9, and 10 at the Tennessee National Guard Armory 7055 Armory Road, in Newport. It will be open on Fridays and Sundays 1 p.m. to 5 pm and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. We will have an official opening on Saturday, November 2 at 10 a.m. We invite the community to join us in sharing the experiences of those who have served our country in times of war and peace. Come take a glimpse into our wars.


We are over half-way through October, Agent Orange (AO) Awareness month. An annual reminder that brings pain and frustration to many Vietnam Veterans. It is a month that recognizes the root of many of my and thousands of other Vietnam Veterans health problems. It is an invisible disease that affects many organs and systems of the veterans, that in most cases will be the results of theirs and most certainly my death. Veterans have had to live with the illnesses the chemicals the United States sprayed to rid the countryside of foliage in Vietnam for over five decades. Now the Vietnam Veterans children and grandchildren are paying the same price.

To recap what Agent Orange (AO) is and how it has affected the Veterans and their families follows.

AO is a herbicide and defoliant chemical that contained Dioxin and the National Institute on Health defines it as, “Dioxins are mainly byproducts of industrial practices. They are produced through a variety of incineration processes, including improper municipal waste incineration and burning of trash, and can be released into the air during natural processes, such as forest fires and volcanoes. Almost every living creature has been exposed to dioxins or dioxin-like compounds (DLCs).”

They go on to say, “The dioxin TCDD (a combination of two herbicides used in Vietnam) is a known cancer-causing agent. Additionally, dioxin exposure has been linked to a number of other diseases, including type 2 diabetes, ischemic heart disease, and an acne-like skin disease called chloracne, a hallmark of dioxin exposure.

Dioxins can cause developmental problems in children, lead to reproductive and infertility problems in adults, result in miscarriages, damage the immune system, and interfere with hormones. Exposure to dioxins has widespread effects in nearly every vertebrate species, at nearly every stage of development, including in the womb.”

In Vietnam we were told that it was safe when it was used to kill the vegetation surrounding military bases and especially on the inner coastal waterways in Vietnam. The government said that it’s use would make the enemy easier to see and save the lives of the American combat troops.

It got its name from the 55-gallon drums it was shipped in that were marked by an orange ring around the middle. Other mixtures were identified with different colors like blue, purple, white and others. It was widely used from 1961 to 1971 and over 20 million gallons of the various “flavors” were dispensed.

The method of choice to disperse the defoliants was spraying. Reports show that 95% of AO was sprayed by Operation Ranch Hand which used C-123s with 1,000-gallon tanks. The rest was by helicopter and on ground with backpack and hand-held sprayers, trucks and jeeps. Between 1961 and 1971 over 20,000 sorties (flight missions) the 20 million gallons were sprayed on five million acres of forest and 500,000 acres of crops. Approximately 20 percent of all forest were sprayed at least once. There were thousands of other gallons sprayed by the other methods.

Reports from news media over five years ago report that 58,318 names are on the Vietnam Memorial “Wall”. Those same reports say there have been over 300,000 Vietnam Veterans who have died because of being in contact with AO. The people of Vietnam face the same diseases that the American veterans have and will continue to for generations. Agent Orange has a half-life of 100 years.

In 1991, Congress enacted the Agent Orange Act, giving the Department of Veterans Affairs the authority to declare certain conditions “presumptive” to exposure to Agent Orange/dioxin. This list includes the following conditions that they can receive compensation because of exposure. Prostate cancer, respiratory cancers, multiple myeloma, type II diabetes, mellitus, Hodgkin’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, soft tissue sarcoma, chloracne, porphyria cutanea tarda, peripheral neuropathy, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and B cell leukemias, such as hairy cell leukemia, Parkinson’s disease and ischemic heart disease. Currently the VA is looking at adding presumptive conditions for Bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, Parkinson’s-like symptoms and hypertension to the list.

Additionally spina bifida in children of veterans exposed to Agent Orange is a condition associated with exposure to the herbicide. The VA has recognized that certain birth defects among veterans’ children are associated with veterans’ qualifying service. Spina bifida (except spina bifida occulta), is a defect in the developing fetus that results in incomplete closing of the spine, is associated with Veterans’ exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides during qualifying service in Vietnam or Korea.

The affected child must have been conceived after the veteran entered Vietnam or the Korean demilitarized zone during the qualifying service period. These children may be eligible for compensation, health care and vocational training.

A non-profit formed in 2012, Children of Vietnam Veterans Health Alliance (COVVHA), have found there are many diseases that they feel are connected to their parent’s service in Vietnam. They share, “The government currently acknowledges 18+ birth defects in children of FEMALE Vietnam Veterans only. The government claims these defects were caused by the female veteran’s service in Vietnam and not an herbicide. The government acknowledges only one type of birth defect in the children of MALE Veterans – spina bifida. However, this excludes the Occulta type.”

They list 18 diseases recognized for the children of female Veterans. Achondroplasia, Cleft lip and cleft palate, Congenital heart disease, Congenital talipes equinovarus (clubfoot), Esophageal and intestinal atresia, Hallerman-Streiff syndrome, Hip dysplasia, Hirschprung’s disease (congenital megacolon), Hydrocephalus due to aqueductal stenosis, Hypospadias, Imperforate anus, Neural tube defects, Poland syndrome, Pyloric stenosis, Syndactyly (fused digits), Tracheoesophageal fistula, Undescended testicle, Williams syndrome, and Spina bifida (except spina bifida occulta).

The COVVHA are a great resource for the children and grandchildren of Vietnam Veterans, women and men. Through their membership they have developed a large list many other illnesses they feel are also related to their parent’s exposure to AO. If you need more information the http://covvha.net/, is a good place to start.



Veterans in Focus (VIF), our new local organization, has been invited to set up a booth at the Lakeside of the Smokies Balloon Festival. The festival will be October 26 and 27 in White Pine. VIF’s booth will be continuing the raffle of two beautiful quilts for the Parrottsville Quilt Guild’s, Quilts of Valor group. The event will be featuring Sunday as a “Salute to America’s Veterans.” There will be special activities, music, and discounted entry. The program is on Sunday, beginning at 1 p.m. It will feature a short welcome by Daryl Brady, Representative for Congressman Dr. Phil Roe. A joint program, will make presentations of Quilts of Valor to six deserving Veterans from Newport, and Jefferson City. Terry Harris, from the Veterans History Project will be on hand to record Veterans stories. There will be special seating and tributes for all Veterans. You can find more information of the activities by visiting https://lotsballoonfest.com/.


Parrottsville Quilt Guild’s Quilts of Valor — group meets the first Saturday of every month at the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 102 148 Pine Street, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. This month’s the meeting will be Saturday November 2. Sheilah Strobel would like to invite anyone in the community to join the group. “They will help make the quilts that will be presented to Veterans in the local community to thank them for their service to our country, no experience is needed, and materials are provided.” For more information please contact Sheilah at 423-623-8340.

Rob Watkins is a totally disabled, Air Force, Vietnam combat veteran. He has worked with Veterans for over 40 years. As a member of local organizations, he continues his path to help others. Please send information, dates for events, two weeks in advance, questions or suggestion; by mail to 565 Caney Creek Road Cosby, TN 37722 or c/o Newport Plain Talk, email; viewfromthebunker@yahoo.com, Facebook/View from the Bunker, or call 423-721-8918.

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