US veteran Chuck Palazzo has spent the past 40 years compensating victims of the Agent Orange he helped spray during his 13 months serving in the Vietnam War.
Palazzo arrived in Da Nang in central Vietnam in 1970 as a US marine when he was 17 years old. But he returned to the United States after 13 months and withdrew himself from the Marine Corps. after realizing how much toxins the war had put on Vietnamese people, Tien Phong said in a report on December 18.
The man recalled that he and other US soldiers were told Agent Orange was harmless to people, that it only made trees shed leaves so that Vietnamese soldiers would have nowhere to hide.
But they realized later that the chemical was "killing Vietnamese people gradually and killing the future generations,” Palazzo said.
He has been doing researches and persuading other US veterans to pay for what they did.
In 2008, Palazzo left his money-making software business in New York and Florida and returned to Vietnam, where one year later he settled in Da Nang.
Palazzo said the idea of choosing Vietnam as his second home arose when he knew that a man working at his company had a mother from Da Nang and a father who is American.
In Da Nang, the man also built a software business. But he spent most of his time doing charity work, asking foreign people and organizations to support Vietnamese victims of the dioxin, bombs and mines.
Palazzo is a member of the US Veterans for Peace and was the one setting the foundation for the organization to operate in Vietnam.
He said it is “embarrassing” that the organization has only appeared in Vietnam in the past two years to help victims of their “crazy innocence” many years ago.
Palazzo is visiting the Da Nang Association of Agent Orange Victims to play with the children every day.
Nguyen Thi Hien, the association chairwoman, said that “Chuck was crying” on the first day he visited the association.
Palazzo said he had seen photos of the war victims on the Internet but he was still shocked when he saw those people with his own eyes.
He said his pain is difficult to explain. It is the pain of seeing a deformed body caused by himself more than 40 years ago.
“It’s terrible … It haunts me every night,” Palazzo said.
Palazzo has decided to focus on giving the victims a better life. He has bought pigs and cows to build farms for the families of the victims in Da Nang.
He also asked his foreign friends in Vietnam to help fund the farms.
Of all the victims he met, Palazzo said he was most impressed by teacher Nguyen Ngoc Phuong, an Agent Orange victim known to the world for his will to overcome his disability. The 31-year-old has the body of a 5-year-old, but he runs classes to teach other victims like him, as well as a motorbike repair shop from his home.
Palazzo said Phuong motivates him and his friends to continue their campaigns.
“I could not tell the result of Vietnam’s fight for justice, but I know surely that the whole world supports Vietnam. I hope there will be a fair result,” he said.