I belong to very few organizations and for good reason. Any time you attach your name to a group, you embody that group’s beliefs and aspirations. I hight three. I belong to the National Organization of Veterans Advocates, the National Rifle Association (Benefactor member) and lastly the Udorn (RTAFB) Reseach Group or simply the URG.
P.S. April 12, 2023. To any reading this, obviously the PACT Act recently passed last year negates the fact that VA denied us all these years. Please feel free to refile for this entitlement. Any and all “presumptives” listed in §3.309(e) are now considered to be service connected if you carry a diagnosis of any of them. If you are a surviving spouse of a deceased Veteran, you can file for DIC based on the cause of death being related in any way to any of the diseases listed in the above regulation.
Many who know me recognize why I belong to these groups. My father bought me a life membership in the NRA when I was born in 1951. It wasn’t cheap then and it isn’t now. Such is the price and the courage to defend our heritage. I chose to do the same for my son and upgraded both our memberships to the highest level of participation when I was able to financially. It’s a worthy endeavor. The NRA is responsible for teaching our police techniques they would not ordinarily encounter. In addition, they have taught untold generations of soldiers and kids the shooting arts and most importantly- gun safety. Seems they could take this program on the road to Chicago but that’s a blog for another day.
Likewise, I joined NOVA for the exact same reasons. No legal group is more focused on helping Veterans attain service connection in America and to my knowledge, there is no like group anywhere in the world devoted solely to the betterment of Veterans law. NOVA’s mission is narrow and focused on one goal. To that end, they provide me with many useful tools including a wide circle of others who are engaged in the same field to discuss and formulate policy and technique. I attend every spring session out here on the Left Coast with Cupcake and am grateful for the friendships I have developed. Quite frankly, I’m amazed that the group is so congenial as some organizations develop factions who advocate against themselves and create animosity where there should be mutual agreement as to the mission.
I have belonged to the Udorn Research Group for a number of years as well. It began as group of individuals who were stationed at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base (RTAFB) who wanted to share their experiences and photos from the base’s inception in 1961 through its eventual closure in 1975. Gradually, that group has grown to encompass any who were stationed at Air Force Bases in Thailand. And well it should. We all share a common heritage born in war.
Gradually, as we all grow older, diseases and illnesses crop up and we look to a reason for them. In our case, many diseases presumptive to Agent Orange exposure in the RVN are rearing their ugly head. Being stationed in Thailand doesn’t give you the presumptive of exposure accorded Vietnam Vets with boots on the ground. Look no further than the rude awakening all the Blue Water Navy Vets got when they applied for benefits due to exposure. Eugene Haas became the poster boy for that one.
Some were inadvertently granted service connection by virtue of being awarded the Vietnam Service Medal early on. Fortunately for them, the VA cannot declare CUE and claw back their awards-or at least they have not yet. I wouldn’t put it past them. Likewise, a small number made it under the wire from Thailand, the Philippines and even Okinawa based on the award of their VSM. Eventually, VA also looked for the award of a Vietnam Campaign Medal which, early on, was only awarded to those in-country for six months or more. Gradually, the award was expanded to include any who had directly supported the war regardless of where they were stationed in Southeast Asia. That’s about when VA decided they needed to give a haircut to entitlement to AO exposure.
About 1998, VA began to notice a major uptick in claims filings for Agent Orange secondaries. In order to squelch this influx and reduce awards, they began to examine their M 21 verbiage, revise it and clean house to rid themselves of the outliers. One of the first to feel this brushoff were the Bluewater Navy folks who were gayly sailing the bounding main in the South China Sea. I submit that this denial logic might have been justified as most rarely flew missions a) unless they were on flight crews and b) they never flew behind C-123s assigned to Ranchhand AO spray missions. Any deckhand’s claims of getting AO on themselves due to residue from the aircraft were patently bogus. Another argument that mitigated for exposure,which certainly has far more merit, was their water systems drew in seawater through reverse osmosis and “manufactured” fresh water that was contaminated with AO runoff from the numerous rivers. Not. AO is a heavy metal and sinks like a rock into the sediment in the estuaries that spill into the South China Sea. Exellent induration of soils on the mainland along with a very shallow water table allows it to rapidly permeate the water supply and reside there for eons. Witness the plethora of birth defects to this day-over fifty years later. The coastal areas of South Vietnam were barely above sea level. In fact, as an example, Base Ops at Tan Son Nhut was 33 ft. ASL. I snapped this photo while we were refueling one morning in 1970.
After numerous battles with Veterans over the years, a list of Navy ships was eventually drawn up with documented records of touching land. These were then granted service connection. Next, certain lines were drawn across estuaries to deliniate what was an inland waterway and what was not. Bingo. Again, another group was disenfranchised out of Cam Ranh Bay. Since most Navy Vets arrived on their respective ships, it was difficult to segregate others who arrived via aircraft to Tan Son Nhut AB and were ferried out to their assigned ships. This further winnowed the list down. For some reason, the VA neglected to consider Rest and Relaxation (R&R) leave on shore at Vung Tau or Australia. How would you find orders showing that? I submit no Aircraft Carrier or Destroyer departed Yankee Station and headed south to Sydney for a week. I rest my case. So does VA.
In the meantime, VA set out to discover who, and who was not, entitled to service connection based on the broader application of the award of the VSM and VCM. There went the Thailand Vets. Extensive investigations by many of these Thai Vets turned up various evidence but none that conclusively showed AO usage at the seven acknowledged bases nor the numerous secret Operating Locations that were never documented anywhere other than on Air Force or AirAm maps. The best Thailand’s Vets could ascertain or prove was that “commercial” or “tactical hebicides” were deployed. Very few of these Thai Vets have won their AO claims which drew my attention to determine why.
As an aside, I have realized over the years that photos of jetguns could not prove the existence of Hepatitis C virus on the nose of a gun. A black and white photo showed a Vet getting inoculated and nothing more. Similarly, a guy standing in front a hootch could have been photographed in Okinawa- or Clark- just as easily as it could have been taken in Phu Cat-or Udorn. A photo does not a nexus make. Unfortunately, very few of these photos show the defoliation of the perimeters to prove the use of herbicides. A bulldozer or lawnmower can scrape the land as efficiently as AO.
Which brings us to the URG. Over the last few years I have contributed advice, a generalized “buddy” letter and photos of some of my wanderings around Thailand and Laos. I have shared this information with the group and noticed there was absolutely no change in the battle plan to win service connection. Virtually to a man ( but not to exclude any round-eye members), they cling to a belief that the ticket to a win is photographic proof, CHECO reports and proof of duty on the perimeters of the bases. Any and all advice I offer on VA law is met with derision or outright guffaws. The last straw was a fellow telling me to quit publishing mistruths and to change my “opinion” to comport with his highly regarded “opinion” that any who served on the perimeter via proof of their AFSC/MOS were automatically entitled to “presumptive exposure”. The actual mistruth I am asked to retract to comport with accepted URG orthodoxy is the belief that Thai Vets’ need an IMO/nexus letter to prove exposure on a direct basis (i.e. 38 CFR §3.303(a)(d)) versus the URG philosophy of a more liberalizing interpretation of §§3.303(b), 3.307(a) and 3.309(e). Wishing doesn’t work in this poker game. Neither does bluffing.
Here is Mr. McCay’s reasoned opinion and my reply.
Today, I spotted yet another who insisted that “brushkillers” were analogous to herbicide agents -ergo merely calling AO a brushkiller was documented proof of the use of Agent Orange in Thailand. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over?
Special attention to Mr Graham
Here’s the document that “proves” AO was used in Thailand
Hey. I don’t mind getting called out when I step on my necktie. Shit happens and I might disremember the regulations after a few adult beverages. Here, I rarely do so. AO is one of my staples as well as SMC and CUE. I can smell it, sense it and detect it from afar. Hell. I ate it, breathed it and drank it for two years. I have Porphyria Cutanea Tarda rated at 100%. I think I speak from a position of authority. I began coughing up blood a year after I landed. You might catch me out on PTSD or favorable ankylosis. For that reason and others I won’t go into here, I don’t include those in my repertoire.
For all my brothers in the URG, I wish to say I have no ulterior motives. I am defininitely not shopping for customers to represent before the VA. I have plenty to go around. Just ask Dan Smith, Bob Walsh and a host of other NOVA attorneys. I hand out candidates who come to me like Halloween candy. I simply cannot serve everyone. But I must say it does irk me when someone with no training or knowledge calls me out and tells me I’m a boob and/or poorly educated vis-à-vis VA regulations. I’d allow as you can call me Buckwheat or late for dinner but I draw the line there. I reckon this diatribe might get me booted from the URG membership but a man has to stand up to this tomfoolery.
And that’s all I’m going to say about that.
My hat goes off to you for all you are doing for Thailand Vets. My first base was Eglin with the 33rd TFW, I arrived in April of 1972 and 2 weeks later was on my way to Udorn, operation linebacker 1. My MOS was 46250 ( weapon Mech) , upon arrival I was told to report to the preload area which I did, anyone who’s been there and knows the base it sits on the perimeter and the bomb dump is down the road. I was there when the base was attacked and because of that was awarded the Vietnam Service Champaign Medal and received combat pay. We made it home and got orders to go again, this time to Ubon, linebacker 2. I have been denied 3 times and waiting for a Judge to decide on my case. Thailand vet need all the help they can get and I thank you for all you are doing to help the forgotten vets.
I served in Thailand 12-73 thru 12-74. I saw this Udorn plaque where can I get one. The government do not recognize the people who served during this time frame to receive the VCM. We were still launching F-4’s to help guard Vietnam. Even had launched operation “Mini Linebacker” I worked in the Air Traffic Control Radar unit that day. Launched and recovered all base F-4′ fully loaded. They do not recognize this operation. Good luck to all who served in Udorn. John Kilcullen
Here’s the picture:
I took this F-4 photo with a Canon F-1, a Canon 85-300 mm SSC zoom lens, and a Canon MF-1 motor Drive Unit. The negatives are in a safe, in my garage. I gave Dave the right to use it, and another that depicted a guard tower on the perimeter, that he was going to use on his book.
Finally got my (100%) service connection through the Pact Act, but still having to fight an appeal to get the connection backdated to my filing date, just after my diagnosis & (lobectomy) surgery. Just notified that I got Pact Act service connection for hypertension (0%), due to (’74-’75) Udorn RTAFB service AO/herbicide exposure. Been working with the local VSO to get help with both claims. It will help, for sure, but I’d rather not have gotten lung cancer. It’s what I get for rolling around in the grass at the trim pads, waiting for engine specialists to arrive, and pulling EOR Last Chance ops. All in the life of a Phase Mechanic!
Welcome Home Thai & Viet Vets!
(kup vs krup -> I learned Bangkok Thai, when I arrived, lots of R’s in proper Thai)
I registered this morning on “Udorn Research Group this morning with my EMail /Username/Password and assumed that this new site was like the old Udorn research site. Now I cannot find this on the web. Is this a different thing again? How many are out there trying to get us back UP! Have no desire to belong to a dozen different sites. I want the one that handled the reunions etc.
greetings! I was stationed at udorn dec 1973-74. 432nd/421tfs F-4D/E. crew chief.
I would really like to hear from anyone stationed there. Sawadee!
My husband, Charlie Molter was at Udorn March 73-74 with the 432 FMS working Egress. He is now in a state VA home suffering from Parkinson’s with dementia. I am paying $1600+ per month for his care. We tried for almost two years to prove his disease was caused by exposure to AO, but failed. They wanted pictures, records, etc. Nothing was ever enough for them. Keep fighting for those vets who deserve to be taken care of. They, like my husband were “Sprayed and Betrayed”!
We might’ve crossed paths, or people we both knew probably did…. Gary, of the squadron office? John Conner (Red Section mech)? Marshall D. Outlaw (Red Section mech)? Frank Basilico (Phase mech)? Gary Ambrose (Phase mech)? Calvin Breathold (Phase mech)?
I got there in October ’74, and departed to a CONUS “Early Out” discharge in September ’75.
Phase Maintenance Mech
My husband, Charles H Molter, Jr., served at Udorn in the summer of 1972 (TDY) and again from March, 1973 to March, 1974. He is now in a nursing home with Parkinson’s disease with dementia. He is existing in a near vegetative state. His neurologist (not VA affiliated) believes this disease was caused by his exposure to AO. I filed a claim 5 years ago and it was denied. I am currently filling out paperwork to file again as a result of the PACT Act that was just passed.
I hope he will be deemed eligible this time and the VA compensation will cover the nursing home costs.
Thanks for all you do for our veterans!
Alice as Molter
Served in Udorn Thailand from August 72 – June 73. I was a fire protection specialist covering Air crashes, and structures and perimeter fence lines. In May of this year I was told I have Sarcomatoid renal cell carinoma cancer, which is incurable. Agent Orange /herbicides. Submitted a claim through my VSO ,now I have to prove I was there and how I was exposed.
Technically, if you received your VSM, RVN CG and VCM, it proves you were on the Indochinese peninsula. Lay testimony under oath (think VA form 21-4138) is a legitimate, powerful tool to attest to your presence at Udon Thani RTAFB. A picture can never confirm anything. A picture of the flightline at any base during that era would look the same in Guam or Okinawa. As for a nexus letter, try this: https://asknod.org/6051-2/
I find it absurd that a veteran has to PROVE he was in SEA when the government has your records that clearly show where you were through your entire enlistment! I’ve had to send personal pictures, awards, citations, etc. for my husband to prove he was at Udorn! Still can’t win our case! Now I’m even getting the runaround about Aid and Attendance and he is in a nursing home receiving 24/7/365 care! The VA needs to step up and own their responsibility to these veterans!
Dear Mrs. Molter,
I’m sure at this point the VA believes he was at Udorn. The bigger problem is obtaining a detailed Independent Medical Opinion (IMO) from a good doctor versed in how to do this form of medical nexus. That is all you need to prove your case. I do this for a living now. I’m accredited (VA #39029 POA Code E1P) and I win claims far harder than this.
My husband served 413 days at Udorn in 72,73, & 74. He worked on ejection seats in jets that flew through Agent Orange. He drank water that had AO leached into it. He ate food grown in soil with AO in it. He has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and is rapidly losing control of his bodily functions. We just received word that he was denied VA disability benefits. I’m not looking for a pay out, I just want quality long-term care for him as his care is beginning to take a toll on me physically, mentally, and emotionally. I just want the government to own up to their role in his decline. He is only 70, and cannot bathe, dress, or feed himself. The government sprayed these chemicals without regard to human safety. They stored them in barrels on bases, where they leaked and leached into the water supply and soil. They are responsible for caring for these people!
I’m guessing you used a major VSO such as DAV or VFW as your representative to file your VA claims for your husband. That is why you lost. If you need representation before the VA, I can do so. I, too, served at Udorn over a two-year period between 1970 and 1972. I am now accredited and represent Veterans before the VA and the CAVC. It’s not very difficult to win the claim. You just have to know how.
Any advice is appreciated. We used our county VA advocate as recommended by the American Legion.
Magnificent effort on everyone who’ll take it’s behalf. I’m surprised you (appeared) were somewhat taken-aback at the chilly reception you received by those incapable of understanding the legal intricacies you were then and are now involved in, perhaps now it would be as the proverbial water off a duck’s back eh? Scanned the 62 pages of that incredible file you’ve provided suggesting a “link to Thailand”…and excuse the ignorance but i find no connection or suggestion of a connect to Thailand in this respect; and I’m not disbelieving as taking on the.my Missouri complex; as in (please) “show me”!?? Thanks in advance..
Ignorance is bliss, many blissful folks out there who cannot conceive that their opinion might be wrong. Keep up the good work
Proving an AO connection is even more difficult for an Army Vet who served on a small Army base in Thailand.