Agent Orange Exposure Hits Eastern Carolina Family Hard

By: Christine Kennedy
By: Christine Kennedy

It is a chemical that forever changed the lives of Vietnam vets and their offspring. Agent Orange is a chemical used during the war between 1962 and 1971 was initially a big help fighting enemy forces. But the United States' decision to use the herbicide turned out to create a non-stop fight against the health problems it caused and one Cove City, Craven County family is living proof.

Jerry and Josh Avery are the son and grandson of a Vietnam Veteran, the government says was exposed to the toxic chemical. Jerry was conceived after his father got back from war, unaware of his exposure until Jerry was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate, deformities, and without tear ducts, all symptoms of agent orange.

Jerry Avery said, "Overtime, it's just part of life, it's part of my life and it's what I have to do."

Jerry's father stayed in the Navy for 20 years to in part help pay for Jerry's 30 surgeries. It wasn't until after the birth of his son Josh that Jerry found out his fathers exposure to Agent Orange had given him a hereditary gene that would pass on the deformities.

Avery said, "I'm not trying to find blame, I'm not trying to point fingers, but the reality of our society and world is that decisions have been made many years ago to do something that impacts the country and world and the citizens that live within it and we have to deal with it."

Dealing with it is a pretty tough for 11 year old Josh not only emotionally but physically too. Josh was born with all the deformities his dad suffered as well as kidney and bladder troubles, so when it comes to treatment for his son he's familiar.

Avery said, "You're not the 1st one who's ever had to do this, you won't be the last, I've been there, I've done it and I'll be there with you as you do it."

Problem is finding the money to pay for the treatment is a bit tricky. Josh who's already had 12 surgeries will need about double that until his healing is complete. Medicaid has paid for much of Josh's surgeries so far, but that's run out. And with a price tag of a quarter million dollars a year paying even 20 percent through medical benefits is way out of the Avery's budget, and Jerry's looking to the government to step up.

Avery said, "I don't want monetary benefits, I'm not after that, all i want to do is be able to take care of him and get him the medical treatment that he needs."

Jerry's father suffers from Agent Orange exposure as well, but those expenses are paid for with government funds. Jerry has been working with Senator Burr's office to see if some sort of legislation can be drafted to pay for the medical bills of Agent Orange dependents. Right now, the only condition recognized in agent orange dependents who are male is spina bifida.


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  • by jesse Location: manns harbor n.c. on Apr 5, 2009 at 07:44 PM
    a large number of us did enlist during viet nam. iam proud of my service,these people deserve help. i also have agent orange problems. USMC
  • by lesley Location: LaGrange on Mar 2, 2009 at 02:10 PM
    Tim, As I know u r entitled to have your opinions!! the thing is that if u make the choice to go into the military they are making this decision to keep u and your rights free!! think about it>>> if no one was brave to go into the service on there on they would bring back the draft!! meaning that u, your father, or your children would stand a chance to have to go!! Joshua Avery is my step son and has been tormented by people who don't understand! have a heart! If u had 2 sit through all the needles and surgeries this child has gone through maybe u and others with a solid heart would think and feel different! Me and his father have been in the public service area of Fire and Emergency Medical Services for years and have never asked for any help until now. We help save lives of drunks, drugs, and domestic violence. The least the government can do is extend there helping hand with something they drafted my father in law in. so no it wasnt his choice for this is was the choice of military
  • by WITN Moderator Location: WITN on Feb 7, 2009 at 06:24 AM
    T- Make sure that you've read "Hey, Read The Rules" on the left hand column. I did review your "blocked comments". One of them was calling out a previous poster in a fairly rough tone. I did post one of yours that was blocked. We have a filter that blocks certain words. Some of the words are fine in one context yet inappropriate in another: screw, balls, hell for starters. Hope that helps.
  • by T Location: Washington on Feb 6, 2009 at 11:56 PM
    WITN moderator... As I sit here working, I still have received no explanation as to why my comments were not posted. Go a spinal cord!!!!
  • by government cares?????? on Feb 6, 2009 at 06:11 PM
    One more other case of agent orange is lymphoma cancer. My father was exposed to it as he was a combat engineer during Vietnam. The VA fought against paying for the treatment of radiation and the surgery. When The last of the agent orange registry persons has passed the government will take responsibility.
  • by Kelly Location: newbern on Feb 6, 2009 at 04:21 PM
    Jerry...It's Kelly...I have spoken to MD Anderson in TX re: Josh please phone me..I left your number at the office...571-4420 thanks
  • by Concerned citizen Location: Easter NC on Feb 6, 2009 at 02:20 PM
    I went to high school with Jerry and he is a truly amazing person so I know if his son Josh is anything like him he is an amazing person also. People who served in the military during the Agent Orange did not volunteer so it was not at their own risk. Furthermore, people of today does enter knowing that there is a chance them getting shot or blowed up in the middle of a war, but not dying at the hands of the people they chose to defend.I think victims of the Agent Orange should get full medical benefits from the goverment. This child did not ask for these birth defects so for those of you that thinks it would be a waste of tax dollars, I hope that nothing ever happens to you that you need assistance with, but if it does I hope and pray that you do not the assistance. God Bless our VETS and their families.
  • by Lil man Location: Greene County on Feb 6, 2009 at 11:40 AM
    Tim, would you feel that way if it were you or one of your familey members in that situation? I had much rather my tax dollars go to something like this than to an able bodied person that is to lazy to get out and work or to these banks that made poor decisions. Be thankful that we have people that are willing to enlist in the armed forces to fight for us. If you think this would be wasting tax money I wouldn't want you working for me or in politics
  • by MAX on Feb 6, 2009 at 11:15 AM
    I guess if you people are that concerned with your frosted mini wheat's then you don't have time to think you know how to run America.
  • by Alicia Tunby Location: New Bern on Feb 6, 2009 at 10:25 AM
    Not to mention the very company that created Agent Orange "Monsanto" has now teamed up with Kellogg's to aid them with a genetically modified sugar to use in all their products! It makes you just want to run right out and get a box of those frosted mini wheats huh? I will no longer eat Kellogg's for this reason. Watch what you are eating people! It is a jungle out here even in the grocery stores!
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