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20130109AgentOrange003.JPG

U.S. war veteran Larry Vetter conducts physical therapy with La Thanh Toan, 21, at the latter's family home near Da Nang, Vietnam. Toan and his 18-year-old brother Nghia are third generation victims of dioxin exposure, the result of the U.S. military's use of Agent Orange and other herbicides during the Vietnam War more than 40 years ago. The brothers were both born normally, but began to suffer from muscular dystrophy and other health problems as they grew older. They are now confined to their home as their bodies and lives literally waste away. Vetter, who served as a Marine Corps infantry officer around Da Nang during the war, met the family in 2008 during his first trip back to Vietnam. He returned in 2012 to finish a documentary film about Agent Orange and Vietnam. Vetter says he knew he had to do something when he met the family and has helped support them financially ever since. "They are part of my lives now," he says. "And I am part of theirs."  The Vietnam Red Cross estimates that 3 million people suffer illnesses from dioxin exposure, including at least 150,000 children born with severe birth defects since the end of the war. The U.S. government last year began paying for the removal of dioxin from the heavily contaminated Da Nang airport, which served as a major U.S. base, but U.S. officials still deny that dioxin is to blame for widespread public health problems in Vietnam, and the U.S. government has yet to provide any aid money specifically to help the country's Agent Orange victims. Jan. 9, 2013.
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