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New bill honors Vietnam vet that died from Agent Orange exposure

Ryan Delaney
Alice Hackett, left, with Rep. Dan Maffei discussing Hackett's late husband, Larry, who died of a cancer likely caused by exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

Rep. Dan Maffei (D-Syracuse) has introduced a new bill to compensate Vietnam War veterans sickened by the chemical Agent Orange he says is more comprehensive than previous efforts.

Maffei's bill is named by Larry Hackett, who died in 2006, more than three decades after his service in the army.

Hackett was exposed to Agent Orange while serving in 1968-69. He died from a cancer likely caused by the exposure, at the age of 58. 

"He survived the war. He returned home to central New York and started a family with his wife Alice and built a wonderful life here. And then three decades later, he discovered the war had followed him home," said Joe Fahey, a longtime friend of Hackett.

The U.S. military heavily sprayed millions of gallons of the herbicide Agent Orange on fields and jungles in Vietnam during the way in an effort to eliminate cover for the enemy and deprive them of food supplies.

Soldiers and Vietnamese citizens exposed to the chemical have become sick. And their children often have birth defects.

"While serving our country in Vietnam, Larry, like many of his comrades, was exposed to Agent Orange, which eventually took his life. We now know the devastating effects of Agent Orange," said Larry Hackett's widow, Alice.

Alice Hackett and Fahey have spent seven years trying to bring their cause to Congress.

The bill would expand the benefits extended to children of veterans debilitated by Agent Orange. It would order the Department of Veterans Affairs to explore the creation of a compensation fund for veterans sickened from Agent Orange and their future generations.

The law would also establish a policy for dealing with future military exposure to dangerous materials. 

Larry was a good guy who loved life and his family, Alice said, "who never once said 'poor me' over this whole thing."