The forty year fight of one woman to organize and represent over 1.5million Vietnam combat veterans who suffered from PTSD and Agent Orange poisoning; all in an effort to save her own beloved husband and their only son.
The journey from a suburb of New Jersey and a yuppie lifestyle, to a radical activist whose refusal to understand what the word "No" meant when it came to everything from local government, to the Federal government and found that if there were going to be laws or a protocol for combat stress disorders, she and whoever she could either charm or bully into helping her do it herself. According to some Congressmen in 1980, Rena Kopystenski, was the only suburban housewife they'd ever met, who had her own military and it was the best trained military in the world!
This book uses not only intellect, but humor to convey some of the incredible efforts that were made to either raise the monies to keep fighting or ways to bring awareness without financial expense. It is heartbreaking as the loss of veteran after veteran, all young or early middle aged Americans to diseases that the Veterans Administration was either ignoring or denying for nearly 30 years.
The hardest thing to write about, for the author, was the frighteningly high number of children born to veterans who were either physically deformed, neurologically impaired or medically challenged and because of the lack of recognition or care on the part of the government, with the pre-existing clauses of medical insurance, only the strong survived. Those effected offspring who had children of their own, faced the nightmare of one out of every thirty-four children born suffered from Epigenetic (non-verbal) Autism, cancers and autoimmune diseases even worse than their parents and grandparents.
This is a book which seems to be well received by all who have read it and for those who didn't even realize that they were not alone, it is a break through to finding answers or at least some education about what they thought was only their family's situation.
The interest of this book is also heralded by those who are trying to learn the tactics of the 60's and 70's activists to fight the present day problems, such as GMO's, chemical poisoning, financial inequity, the war on those who suffer in poverty instead of poverty itself and the list goes on; which has been lacking a hands on everyday action by protesters as opposed to learning about lobbying, demonstrating and using the media as a too.
The writer has pulled no punches and made no softening efforts to talk about the nightmares of her husband's illnesses, her son's lifelong autoimmune system and neurological problems or the untimely and the horrors of her six year old grandson's death. However, what is amazing to the veterans and educators who know Rena's story, is that every one thing that befell her family, she turned into a need to fight harder and do more. One year after losing her best friend and life partner, John Kopystenski, to the ravages of Agent Orange, in 2008, Rena flew to Paris, France to testify before the International Tribunal on Agent Orange, which found that the spraying was a "war crime" but nothing was done by the World Court. In 2009, Rena tells of her beautiful grandson, Giovanni's accidental death and her son, Alex's close call with his own death because of the loss of his little boy, all related to the two years of 1965/66 when his own father, because of the forcible draft and corporate greed, spent fifteen months, as a hero in the jungles of Vietnam.