Fight for veterans exposed to Agent Orange comes to PdC

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Vietnam veterans advocate Steven Pape, Richard Lindbeck and Jim Armstrong of River Town Ironworks hold a metal flag to support Vietnam veterans.

 

By Ted Pennekamp

 

 

Richard Lindbeck, the president of the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) Wisconsin State Council visited River Town Ironworks Tuesday afternoon. Rivertown has been creating metal flags in an effort to raise funds for veterans.

Lindbeck said he tries to help all veterans, but his main focus as president is on Vietnam veterans and their exposure to Agent Orange and other toxic chemicals.

“Any veteran who had boots on the ground in Vietnam was exposed to Agent Orange,” said Lindbeck. “We were told by the United States Government and by Dow Chemical that it wasn’t going to harm us, that it was safe.”

Thousands of Vietnam veterans continue to suffer from physical and mental problems, however, said Lindbeck, who has conducted about 35 town hall meetings on the subject in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas, Maryland, and Washington D.C.

“When you get these veterans to open up, it’s unbelievable,” said Lindbeck, who noted that Vietnam veterans have experienced birth defects in their children and grandchildren, Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder in their children and grandchildren, Type 2 diabetes, various types of cancer, intestinal organ problems and numerous other problems because of Agent Orange.

“We are losing roughly 600 Vietnam veterans a day, mostly to suicide,” said Lindbeck.

Lindbeck said his main mission is to help veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and other toxins to file claims and to get their benefits.

“Don’t try to do it yourself,” said Lindbeck. “Go to your local veterans service officer, that’s what they’re there for.”

Lindbeck said he got started working in the Agent Orange program after attending a meeting about Agent Orange in Orlando, Fla. a number of years ago.

“It hit me like a ton of bricks,” said Lindbeck. “I lost a brother to it (Agent Orange). He died of esophageal cancer. He was on Hamburger Hill.”

Lindbeck said he wants to make sure all Vietnam veterans are aware of what the problems and symptoms of Agent Orange exposure are and how they can make a claim.

“There is no half-life on this stuff,” he said. “It affects at least seven generations.” Lindbeck said his son and his granddaughter have problems due to Agent Orange.

Lindbeck was in the Air Force for four years and in Vietnam for one year. In 1985, he became involved with VVA Chapter 448 in Newburg, Wis. Ten years ago, he was elected president of the State Council of the VVA in Wisconsin. He is the first vice chairman of the Conference of State Council Presidents and the Chair of the Conventions Committee for national credentials for the National Convention which is held every odd year. Lindbeck was also a Wisconsin State Trooper for 29 years.

Lindbeck said Prairie du Chien had a VVA chapter, but it disbanded in 2008. “It would be great to get one started again,” he said. “All you need is 25 Vietnam veterans. You can be a life member for $50.” There are more than 85,000 VVA members from all across the United States and in several other countries.

Lindbeck said another one of his goals is to get a Native American Chapter in Wisconsin. He said there are 12 tribes in the state.

Lindbeck will be speaking at the next fundraiser for the Wisconsin Veterans Foundation on National Armed Services Day on May 18, 2020 to be held at Leisure Time Sports Bowl and Banquet in Prairie du Chien. For several months ahead of the event, organizers will be seeking donations and items from businesses and organizations to be raffled.

Lindbeck can be reached at (262) 388-4237 or at thunderbird14@charter.net. The Crawford County Veterans Service Office is in room 137 of the County Administrative Building at 225 N. Beaumont Road, Prairie du Chien. Their phone number is (608) 326-0204.

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