Medal of Honor recipient to lead Salina Vietnam vet event

An event with deep personal meaning for millions of people — especially current military and veterans, as well as areas living near military installations — is scheduled for March 26 at the Temple in downtown Salina.

A full day of activities takes place in the dining hall of the stately building at 336 S. Santa Fe, starting at 9 a.m. with the free Toxic Exposure Town Hall, hosted by Veterans of America Chapter 809 from Vietnam.

Sammy L. Davis, left, and Jim Deister pose for a photo on their return trip to Vietnam in 2016. Courtesy Photo

In an evening grand finale, Medal of Honor recipient Sammy L. Davis of Freedom, Indiana will speak at the 7 p.m. welcome dinner. At least one of the men he saved in a horrific battle in Vietnam – Jim Deister, 76, president of the VVA chapter – will be present and play a part in the big day.

Davis, 75, is looking to inspire his friends in north-central Kansas, with some sage advice: “No matter what you’re up against, you don’t lose until you stop trying,” a- he wrote in a statement, “and seeing Jim Deister in the audience strengthens my soul tremendously.

Dinner tickets, hosted by Martinelli’s Little Italy, are a suggested donation of $20. They are available by calling Doug Randolph, (785) 822-4085, visiting Ad Astra Book & Coffee House, 141 N. Santa Fe, or The Temple.

Speakers on Agent Orange, burning and toxic spills at military bases, including the former Schilling Air Force Base in Salina, will gather and provide key information on issues that pose risks to those who have served abroad and live near toxic spills.

Doors open at 9 a.m. and the first presentation begins at 10 a.m. A box lunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. A donation of $10 is suggested, proceeds will go to the Vietnam Veterans Association.

Education and discussion issues have broad appeal, Deister said.

“Town Hall is important for Vietnam veterans, many of whom have been exposed to Agent Orange, to learn how the toxic agent affects them, their children and grandchildren; for veterans of Middle Eastern wars affected by burning fires,” he wrote in a statement. could affect their health.

The first to run for mayor is Maynard Kaderlik at 10 a.m., whose exposure to Agent Orange has profoundly affected his life and his family.

A deadly dioxin-containing defoliant, Agent Orange, was part of more than 20 million gallons of a number of herbicides in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos from 1961 to 1971, according to It was used to kill ground cover and crops by North Vietnamese and Vietcong troops.

Later, the chemical was proven to cause many serious health problems, including forms of cancer, birth defects, skin rashes, and serious psychological and neurological problems, in returning Vietnamese and U.S. military personnel. their families.

A class action lawsuit in 1979 resulted in chemical companies paying out $180 million in compensation to veterans, the article reveals, but the controversy has continued for more than four decades.

Kaderlik was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010. His son has a severe learning disability and his daughter has autism, according to an article on the VVA website by Jim Belshaw.

“At the beginning, the government told us that it was all in our heads. But as more and more studies were done and more and more scientists began to speak out, the government began to take seriously and allow veterans to benefit from disability and compensation,” Deister wrote. “There are still a lot that have been turned down, so Maynard will ask for stories of veterans who have dealt with AO and who have dealt/fought with (Veterans Administration, put them with other stories and use them to advocate for veterans.”

Lindsey Dearing, professional staff member of the United States Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, will follow Kaderlik to the podium and talk about Burn Pits.

An estimated 3.5 million post-9/11 veterans may have had some level of combustion fireplace exposure while serving, Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas wrote on his website. Ranking Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Member Moran and Chairman Jon Tester D-Montana introduced the bipartisan Pledge to Treat Toxic Substances Act, which passed both the House and the Senate. Both chambers are working on a compromise bill to address funding issues.

The legislation “will extend the period of health care eligibility for veterans who served after 9/11, 2001,” Moran’s website says.

“Many of these veterans may be living with undiagnosed illness related to military toxic exposures,” Moran said. “We must meet the immediate needs of these veterans by providing them with health care.

At least one critic called the Senate effort “insufficient,” according to the story on Moran’s website.

Correcting mistakes can take time, said Martha Tasker, director of public services for Salina, who will speak about toxic spills at military bases.

“My goal is to get them to understand a bit of the history of Schilling Air Force Base and what has happened since the base closed,” she said.

Tasker is the city’s project manager for the cleanup of contamination from the old base. It is now home to the Salina Regional Airport and Airport Industrial Center, the Kansas State University Aerospace and Technology Campus, and many other businesses, schools, and organizations.

The base used by the military since the 1940s closed in 1965. Years of pollution, mostly from the solvent trichlorethylene, or TCE, in soil and groundwater, were left behind. He crawls, very slowly, towards the water wells of the city.

“That’s the goal, to stop the creep,” Tasker said.

Carcinogenic, TCE was used as a degreaser to wash planes and weapons at the base. The city’s wells are not in immediate danger, city officials have pointed out over the years, but their goal is to clear underground plumes.

After a long battle and litigation with the U.S. government, Salina’s public entities — the City of Salina, the Salina Airport Authority, the Salina School District, and Kansas State University — were awarded nearly 70 million dollars to clean up the mess.

“The base was in service for less than 25 years, and here we are, almost 60 years later, and we’re just starting to clean it up,” Tasker said. “The community takes ownership of the project. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not a train.

Working closely with Matt Schroeder, environmental engineer at Dragun Corporation of Farmington, Hills, Mich., Tasker is helping develop plans for the cleanup, which will begin later this year. Finalization of other plans will continue for two years before construction of the infrastructure ensues.

“Right now we are testing and monitoring groundwater, preparing to do additional sampling, fine-tuning the design and making sure we are locating all the wells and the treatment facility, and that the project is profitable” , she said. noted.

The work will be overseen by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. After further investigation, final design will begin and construction of different types of sanitation will begin.

Digging up the contaminated soil and replacing it is one treatment alternative that could be available this year, Tasker said, but the most complicated treatment will be pumping out the contaminated water, cleaning it up and returning it underground.

“It doesn’t happen overnight,” she said.

Perhaps the most time-consuming tasks will be mixed with 20 years of monitoring, to ensure that the level of contamination is well below regulatory standards.

“I think we’ll be watching until about 2050,” Tasker said, “unless things go better than expected. We’ll learn more over time.

These times are currently estimates, she said.

“Some corrections will happen very quickly, and some will be a bit slower,” Tasker said. “We’ll be watching for a while.”

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FACTOID: Welcome dinner proceeds are for Kansas veterans in Vietnam.

The event was made possible in part by a grant from the American-Made Heroes Foundation, which “salutes American military veterans who dedicate their lives to helping others, especially fellow service members,” according to its site. website.

Although Town Hall is free, box lunches will be served at the previous Town Hall, with a suggested donation of $10. Proceeds go to VVA Chapter 809.

The temple gates open at 9 a.m. There will be vendor stalls. Coffee and snacks will be served by members of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Donations would be appreciated.

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Photos courtesy of Tim Unruh – Top photo Left to right, Sammy and Dixie Davis, pose with Rita and Jim Deister during a visit to Washington, DC in September 2015.

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