Two Jamestown-area veterans were honored Thursday at the Vietnam Veterans of America David B. Arthur Chapter 865 with the help of state Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean.
James Becker received The Order of The Silver Rose, which is given to veterans who have suffered diseases from exposure to Agent Orange, and ''Uncle Tony'' Costanza was recognized with the Golden Dog Tag Award.
Becker is the first area recipient of the Silver Rose honor. The award was created in 1997 to honor those who have been exposed to Agent Orange and suffering from disease because the government does not award Purple Hearts to veterans who have been expose to the chemical defoliant.
State Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, stands with James Becker, who was presented the Silver Rose Award, which is given to veterans who have suffered diseases from exposure to Agent Orange, Thursday at Jamestown’s Vietnam Veterans Of America David B. Arthur Chapter 865.
P-J photos by Dennis Phillips
''Agent Orange is very toxic, with 300,000 veterans exposed to it during the war,'' Sen. Young said. ''Unfortunately, there is no recognition through the government."
"That is why the Silver Rose was established by veterans and their families to recognize those who were exposed,'' Sen. Young continued.
The Veterans Administration and the Government recognizes 43 cancers and sicknesses, including Diabetes II, as Agent Orange related. There are currently eight types of cancers currently recognized by the Veterans Administration as connected to Agent Orange exposure. The herbicide and defoliant was used by the U.S. military during its herbicidal warfare program during the Vietnam War, with an estimated 21 million gallons of Agent Orange sprayed across South Vietnam.
"Hopefully down the road ... hopefully they will
find something to stop the progression of it."
Sen. Young said Becker served more than 18 months in direct combat during the Vietnam War.
''We owe you a debt of gratitude,'' Sen. Young said.
Becker said receiving the award was special for him as a veteran exposed to Agent Orange and still fighting diseases from the toxic chemical herbicide.
''What I have ... it has been a struggle ... it just keeps on eating and eating,'' Becker said. ''There is no cure, it can only be treated. Hopefully down the road ... hopefully they will find something to stop the progression of it.''
The ceremony was a surprise for Becker, who thanked Sen. Young for coming and being a part of the surprise.
''To me, you our my favorite,'' Becker said to Sen. Young. ''It means a lot to me. You do a lot for the veterans.''
Sen. Young said Becker is a profile of courage.
''Talk about a great American,'' she said.
Also, Sen. Young assisted in recognizing Costanza with the Golden Dog Tag Award for his service to Jamestown's Vietnam Veterans Of America chapter.