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Apology hollow - war vet widow

The Government's apology to Vietnam veterans is hollow and those who suffered from Agent Orange need something much more tangible.
That's the opinion of Janet Ross of Katikati, the widow of Colonel Alistair Ross who died in September from the effects of Agent Orange - and who missed the apology by just three months.
"What's needed is more assurance about support for the children and the grandchildren of Agent Orange victims," Mrs Ross said.
She felt no less angry now about her husband's death than she did before the apology, because she had watched her husband, who served in Vietnam for a year from February 1969, "die by centimetres over many years".
"I will always wonder if we could have prolonged his life if we had known earlier what he was suffering from.
"The last few years of Alistair's life on earth were awful."
Colonel Ross' year in Vietnam was long enough to receive a deadly dose of the chemical, which was used to kill trees in the war against the Vietcong.
He went to Vietnam a fit, healthy young man and returned home with many medical problems which included an unexplained body rash and severe diarrhoea, which led to internal bleeding.
Some months after returning, Mr Ross's condition deteriorated so badly he went into a coma while in Auckland Hospital and doctors feared for his life.
Mrs Ross, then pregnant with their first child, remembers a senior doctor telling her that American Vietnam veterans had similar symptoms.
"We were not aware of the Agent Orange exposure at this time," she said.
Thanks to a dedicated team of doctors, Mr Ross recovered and was able to return to his military career. He was just 27.
He coped with increasing ill-health as best he could and bore no bitterness towards the military.
"If you take the Queen's shilling, you accept the risks" he said in a message read at his funeral in September.
However, he did not expect his "battle" to last more than 30 years.
Like most military families Alistair, Janet and their three sons moved frequently, to posts throughout New Zealand, Australia and the US.
However, it became increasingly obvious that Mr Ross's health would never recover.

He constantly battled intestinal problems and resigned from the army because of ill health in 1992.
For the next 12 years until his death, he underwent several operations including removal of his large intestine, removal of a malignant tumour in his gall bladder, radioactive iodine for his thyroid gland, heart surgery and finally died suffering from invasive liver cancer secondary to his gall-bladder cancer.
When the Australian and US governments formally recognised the harm done to their veterans following exposure to Agent Orange, New Zealand veterans began calling for recognition too.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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