3 out of 4 stars
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What do you know about the Vietnam War? I am sure that Agent Orange might come to mind, but have you ever heard of Agent White? In his book Silent Spring-Deadly Autumn, Patrick Hogan brings into the spotlight the atrocities of his time spent in the military serving our country and the aftermath of being betrayed by government agencies who fail to take responsibility for the harm inflicted. He mainly focuses on the herbicides and pesticides that were purposely sprayed in areas he and others were stationed. It will make readers question the honesty of the leaders of our nation, its laws and what is deemed as a safe substance.
While listening to a speech given by President Obama in 2012 where he was giving honor to those who had served in this war, the author had memories burst forth that he had pushed down for years in an attempt to leave this event in the past. But, how do you do so when what has been done can still impact not only you but your children and future generations to come? This was the beginning of his awakening to facts that had been cloaked for years in secrecy and corruption.
His writing not only gives full details of his physical ailments, but it is a compilation of the massive amounts of chemicals that he and his fellow 'boots on the ground' servicemen were subjected to at the hands of those who they thought they could trust. He reveals that our military and government were aware, and still are to this day, of the health ramifications that these plant and bug killers could have on the population that was living and operating in the areas that were being doused.
Using declassified information, published studies, as well as his own experiences, he comes forth as a powerful advocate for the men and women who have been told that there is insufficient evidence to prove that their illnesses or disabilities are a result of toxic substances. He has used his diligent research to pull together facts that would otherwise remain obscure or not conclusive. This is much like a defense lawyer who has prepared a case that would be difficult to debate against. However, stonewalling tactics remain, lame excuses are still given, and the needs of those who are suffering still go unattended.
I liked the way this author used metaphors to get his point across. The information is highly technical with a lot of science jargon and abbreviations. Even with the glossary at the beginning to help readers decipher, it got a bit tedious at times reading words such as hexachlorobenzene (HCB) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB). He does apologize to his listening audience for having to include this, but it does prove necessary to know what each of the chemicals is, how they interact with one another and how they can cause horrible, irreversible injury.
Just when I would think I wasn't fully understanding a point, he would use an illustration in everyday terms to bring clarity. For example, when explaining the effects that can happen from toxic exposure, he likens it to holding up an empty glass in the air. At first, this task can seem easy, but as the hours tick by or if someone adds liquid to the cup, it becomes more difficult as fatigue takes over.
When a person inhales, digests or absorbs through the skin a noxious material, it can remain in the system for quite a while before an illness manifests. This revelation dismantles the false claims made by the Department of Veterans Affairs when they blatantly dismiss the requests of former military personnel to consider health problems being related to these chemicals from years prior. The burden of proof, however, continues to fall at the feet of the victims who have no one to come to their aid and assist in standing up for their rights.
This is written in a highly organized manner with a table of contents and some personal photos interspersed. It would most likely appeal to those who are veterans as well as those who like information about our government and its cover-ups. For those who don't enjoy a lot of scientific terms, then you will either need to skim those sections, which are quite a large portion of the book or skip this one entirely.
While this gets high marks for accurate and valuable reporting, I did find at least ten errors in punctuation and grammar. So, I have to award it a 3 out of 4 stars. However, I know that this author is a high-quality writer who has taken on a complex subject, and he will have no problem fixing the mistakes that I found.
I generally read non-fiction books to learn and to become better acquainted with pieces of history that happened either before my time or before I understood what was happening in our country. This book is an important reminder that we should never take for granted the sacrifices our veterans have made for us and continue to do so today.
Silent Spring - Deadly Autumn of the Vietnam War
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