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Dear Fellow American,

I called him "Murph."

That's what all his buddies in Nam called him. Murph went over in 1966, leaving the small Pennsylvania town where he grew up the middle son in a loving family of 10 children.

Murph's job? To crawl into the network of serpentine underground tunnels built by the Viet Cong to look for munitions, food stores, and enemy soldiers.

Dealing with the dark and mud was the easy part. It was the snakes, spiders, and rats and constant chance of sniper attack that made Murph edgy. But he did it over and over and over again. When he wasn't "sweeping" tunnels, Murph was supposed to clear land for base camps. To do that, he was ordered to spray Agent Orange from a tank strapped to his back.

How powerful was the chemical? Murph put it this way. "You could turn an area of dense jungle four times the size of a football field into sand in 24 hours."

Then one day Murph was "walking perimeter." spraying Agent Orange along a camp's barbed-wire border, when he stepped on a booby trap. The explosion catapulted him 20 feet through the air and into the wire. "I looked like a puppet hanging there."

Worse for Murph, the blast ripped open the tank he carried, sending countless pieces of shrapnel, large and small, into his back--and into the raw wounds flowed undiluted Agent Orange.

Within days of the accident, Murph got severely ill--bleeding from his eyes and ears, severe nausea and diarrhea, and open sores. The Army sent him home, Murph went back to work as a tool-and-die cutter, the job he had left to join the service. Some days he felt good--some days not so good.

Then in 1974 it struck. Big sores broke open on the ends of his fingers and on his knuckles. His skin started to flake off. Numbness crept up his arms to his his chest ...and down to his legs. Murph's weight plummeted to 86 pounds.

Outrageously, doctors at Veteran Administration hospitals tried to convince Murph he had a genetic "chemical imbalance." Murph's disease was chemically caused all right--but hardly genetic! Specialists later diagnosed his condition as seleroderma, a rare form of arthritis, brought on by the merciless herbicide, Agent Orange.

Scleroderma is a cruel disease. It disfigures, It hardens the skin and makes cold extremely painful. It destroys your sense of touch. You cannot distinguish rough from smooth, hard from soft, or dry from moist. Think about that for a moment.

Murph's fingers curled in. He had less than 20% movement in his hands and little more in his arms. He suffered intense muscle and joint pain, and the skin on his arms and chest turned all leathery. Finally, he was pretty much housebound and inactive. He talked on the phone or watched TV. And at night, when he slept, he dreamed he could cut the grass and work on his car--things he always did when he could use his hands.

Today, two soldiers from Murph's outfit are confined to wheelchairs, incapacitated by Agent Orange-related diseases. Four others, like Murph, are now gone. And not a day goes by that I do not mourn the death of my best friend Murph. But maybe saddest of all...

Murph's first child, a son who would proudly carry on the family name, was born with stomach and intestinal birth defects...the result, Murph always was convinced, of Agent Orange. And Murph's son is not alone. More than 65,000 children of Vietnam vets have been born with birth defects that their parents firmly believe were caused by their dad's or mom's exposure to Agent Orange.

When I decided to write you, I did so because I believed you would genuinely care about the plight of real-life heroes like Murph---and their children---and find it in your heart to help.

And that's why I'm asking you, imploring you, to personally support the work of an organization that Murph helped me form, called Veterans of the Vietnam War--or VVnW for short.

Your gift of $20, $35, $50, even $100 or more, will help us extend a helping hand to brave men and women like Murph by building support for military health care reform legislation that benefits all our nation's veterans, including Vietnam Veterans and especially victims of Agent Orange and other service-related injuries and illnesses.'ll help VVnW reach out to more of America's homeless veterans through our United Veterans Beacon House program. I know you agree it's a disgrace that 457,000 of those who risked life and limb for their country in the jungles of Vietnam are now "shopping cart soldiers," sleeping on heating grates and living hand to mouth on America's streets.'ll help make sure Vietnam veterans and their families receive the benefits they need--and deserve!--by enabling us to train more VVnW Veterans Service Officers. These former soldiers, sailors and flyers have the skills and persistence it takes to cut through the red tape and negotiate the confusing maze of forms and procedures that too often stands between vets and the entitlements they were promised.

So sustain all our vital work by becoming a VVnW supporter today.

Believe me, you'll gain a tremendous feeling of satisfaction. And Murph would be the first to shake your hand--if only he could.


Michael Milne

Vietnam Veteran and

National Commander

P.S. In addition to your gift, you can help even more by advocating for veterans' rights. Email VVnW at or call us at 1-800-VIETNAM for information on how you can help educate the public and policymakers on issues that affect vets and their families.

Your gift can be sent to:

Veterans of the Vietnam War, Inc.

Special Projects Office

PO Box 98055

Washington, DC 20077-7709

Information is owned by Veterans of the Vietnam War, Inc. and used with permission.