Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011
Agent Orange protest coming to Frederick
South Carolina resident works to bring attention to plight of fellow veterans
by Katherine Heerbrandt | Staff Writer
A protest is brewing, moving north from South Carolina tonight and touching down outside the gates of Fort Detrick in Frederick Wednesday afternoon.
Billed as “Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America Joins Local Residents at Protest at Fort Detrick, the Home of Agent Orange and Other Toxic Herbicides,” the protest is led by disabled veteran and former disc jockey Lou Krieger, a Baltimore native who now lives in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Scheduled for the corner of Rosemont and Montevue avenues from 1-5 p.m. Wednesday, veterans will distribute information and display the “Agent Orange Quilt of Tears,” a memorial for veterans who have died of exposure to the chemical….
A 62-year-old veteran disabled and diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and chloracne, a disease he attributes to exposure to Agent Orange, Krieger said he volunteered for veterans who got sick from the herbicide in stateside military bases because of his own struggles to be recognized as a victim of exposure.
Spotlighted by media in Florida and Georgia, Krieger said he was “in shock” nearly a year ago when someone sent him a listing of Department of Defense sites where herbicides were tested.
“The more I dug into it, the worse it gets,” Krieger said. “I can see they have been exposed to it and they don’t know about it.”
Coming to Frederick is one more way to make the public aware of these veterans, he said, and to vent his frustration that Detrick will not give him documents he has requested on the testing of Agent Orange on the base.
“I have requested documents detailing testing of herbicides, and I have just gotten, and you can write this down, I have just gotten jerked around,” he said.
To voice his displeasure, Krieger decorated his truck with plans to drive around the city pumping up interest in the protest with slogans like, “Agent Orange, It Won’t Hurt You, It Will Just Kill You.”
“That’s what the vets always say,” Krieger said.
Later, Krieger will join members of the Kristen Renee Foundation at a meeting of Fort Detrick’s restoration advisory board on base cleanup efforts. He wants to ask, “why has Detrick denied me documents about Agent Orange testing?”
Robert Sperling, a spokesman for Fort Detrick, said in an e-mail that Krieger has a “right to free speech and freedom to demonstrate in Frederick. As per his requests, [Krieger] he has asked repeatedly for information about organizations other than Fort Detrick. We cannot comment on the activities that other organizations and locations engaged in or didn’t, and we have referred him back to those organizations. This is what we have responded to him numerous times.”
Krieger said his visit to Frederick is an outgrowth of his efforts of the past two years. He has led the way in publicizing the plight of veterans exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides while stationed at military bases stateside, including Fort Gordon, Georgia, and Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
Some have received overdue benefits, Krieger said, others are still waiting.
Krieger does not believe the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ report stating that Detrick scientists used a minute amount of the herbicide Agent Orange in its experiments between 1944 and 1969.
“If you believe that they only used 16 pounds, or two gallons, of that stuff,” he said in a phone interview, “then I have a bridge to sell you.”