Right away, some of our younger readers are turned off. They would rather not bother themselves with the horrors of past wars. America’s wars are now in the dustbin of history, out of the collective consciousness.
Failure to learn from history is partly supported by a naïve belief, capsulized in the phrase, “that’ll never happen to me.” And therefore, successive generations are doomed to repeat history because they have not learned from the sacrifice of others who have gone before them.
It’s pretty simple when you think about it, people either joined or were drafted and found themselves knee deep in blood on foreign soil. They came home to an indifferent America, forced to fight for years trying to get help dealing with health maladies because of an asinine plan to defoliate the jungle.
In times of war and not before,
God and the soldier we adore.
But in times of peace and all things righted,
God is forgotten and the soldier slighted.
A true warrior against the cruel indifference of government has passed away and we thought it necessary to commemorate his sacrifice. His name was Alfred Procopio Jr., who bravely fought yet another war, but this time against his own government for their negligence and stupidity.
Through one corner of their mouths, the VA says they care about veterans. Through the other corner of their mouths, they do everything possible to deny help for veterans exposed to Agent Orange.
We regret that we could not obtain a picture of Alfred to include here, but that no way diminishes the tremendous impact he had in helping his fellow comrades at arms to get the help they needed.
Sadly, the wheels of justice grind very slowly and many vets died waiting for our government to finally own up to their responsibilities and provide help to those who served.
Recently, the organization called Military-Veterans Advocacy (MVA) sent our readers this information…
In 1963, when 18 year old Boston native Alfred Procopio Jr. joined the United States Navy, the war clouds were beginning to gather over Southeast Asia.
Having just completed an electrical apprenticeship, Al Procopio saw an opportunity to expand his electrical knowledge while serving his country. Assigned as an electrician aboard the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, Procopio served in the waters off both North and South Vietnam.
The Intrepid conducted air strikes and support missions throughout Vietnam in support of the war effort. Mr. Procopio did not suffer any visible wounds from shrapnel or burns, but unknown to him, an insidious killer entered his body.
Agent Orange herbicide, discharged through Vietnamese rivers and washed off the land by the monsoon rain, entered the South China sea where the Intrepid was on station.
The chemical was ingested into the ship’s evaporation distillation system that converted salt water into potable drinking water. Although not known at the time, the distillation process did not remove the harmful dioxin – it enriched it.
Decades later, Mr. Procopio began to suffer from heart disease, diabetes and other herbicide related diseases. He applied for benefits under the Agent Orange Act of 1991, but was denied.
It seems that the Department pf Veterans Affairs (VA) had decided that the toxic chemicals did not infiltrate into the South China Sea.
Mr. Procopio sought the assistance of Commander John B Wells, USN (retired) founder of the Slidell, Louisiana based Military-Veterans Advocacy (MVA) to pursue his case.
Commander Wells and MVA applied the international law of the sea to successfully argue that the territorial sea of the Republic of Vietnam, was, for purposes of the Agent Orange Act, part of the sovereign territory of the Republic of Vietnam.
Coupling Wells’ nautical knowledge with the legal expertise of Melanie Bostwick, of the Washington DC based Orrick law firm, MVA challenged the VA before the Court of Appeals of the Federal Circuit sitting en banc.
On January 29, 2019, the court issued their opinion, in Procopio v. Wilkie, 913 F.3d 1371, overruling existing precedent and extending the presumption of exposure to 90,000 Blue Water Navy veterans.
“Al Procopio was a tiger who would not give up,” mused Wells. “He was a dedicated sailor who fought hard to win the battle for himself and for other Navy veterans. He was a true hero whose efforts changed the lives of his fellow sailors for the better.”
“In honoring our fallen this Memorial Day,” Wells continued, “”please say a special prayer for Al Procopio and his wife Joan.”
Using the Procopio case as a model, MVA continues to fight for benefits for veterans throughout the United States and the world.