American Legion Honors Agent Orange Afflicted Vets

Legion of the Silver Rose ceremony
Correction: Due to Liquor License restrictions, the public will not be able to attend the indoor ceremony or dinner. Attendees do not have to belong to Post #27; however, they must be members of the American Legion or Auxiliary or a personal guest of a post member.

By Dana Trumbull

On Saturday, April 21, the American Legion Riders from Post #27, 1018 S. Meridian Road, Apache Junction, will honor 14 victims of Agent Orange with induction into the Legion of the Silver Rose. The event will include a motorcade parade at noon, followed by the Induction Ceremony at 1 p.m. and dinner at 3 p.m.

With kickstands up at noon, DPS officers will escort approximately 60 motorcycle riders from Arizona and California as they accompany the honorees in classic Thunderbird convertibles provided by the Arizona Classic Thunderbird Club.

If you would like to watch the motorcade and express appreciation to these veterans for their service, the 8 mile route will take them from the post, north on Meridian to Superstition Blvd., then east to the Veterans Memorial Gazebo (by the Apache Junction Police Department), south on Idaho to Southern, then west to Meridian as they return to the post. The route is approximately 8 miles.

The Order of the Silver Rose was conceived by Mary Elizabeth Davis-Marchand, “To recognize the courage, heroism and contributions of American service personnel found to have been exposed to Agent Orange, whose exposure resulted in internal, invisible wounds, which are revealed only by the passage of time.”

Marchand’s father, Frank Davis, retired from active duty early in 1969, after his final deployment as a chief hospital corpsman with the Third Marines in Chu Lai, Vietnam. In 1996, Davis was informed that he had terminal cancer, which, according to the US Navy, was caused by exposure to Agent Orange in Chu Lai 27 years earlier.

The 1991 Agent Orange Act qualified Davis for benefits; however, the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) did not (and still does not) consider the diseases caused by exposure to Agent Orange to be wounds deserving of the Purple Heart. Marchand shared, as she wrote the story of how the Order of the Silver Rose came to be, “It never occurred to me that, in creating such a landmark piece of legislation, the Congress of the United States would leave out the one thing these heroes needed the most: their self-respect.”

Marchand established the Order of the Silver Rose to honor the service and sacrifice of these individuals where the United States government would not.

Years later, when the Marchand family could no longer continue the program, the Ladies Auxiliary of the American Legion Post #24 in Tombstone, AZ, agreed to carry on the tradition, changing the name to the Legion of the Silver Rose. Since then, sponsorship has spread throughout American Legion Rider (ALR) posts in Arizona and California.

Ron Smith, American Legion Rider Post #39, Gilbert, AZ, is now serving his second year as the northern Arizona director for the Legion of the Silver Rose. “The main benefit of membership in the Silver Rose is the pride of knowing that your brothers and sisters in arms respect you and know what you’re going through every day.”

Currently, the VA recognizes more than 14 types of cancer and other health problems as presumptive diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange, and research is revealing that veterans’ children and grandchildren can have birth defects that were passed on through their parents’ and grandparents’ affected genes.

Veterans and their survivors may be eligible for benefits, but Smith warns that, although the VA will treat Agent Orange related illnesses, they continue to resist paying disability benefits. He advises veterans to be persistent. “You just have to keep fighting for it. I have put in, I don’t know how many times for my disability. They put it in, and then they take it away, and I apply again… And if they tell you to re-file, do not start a new claim! Always refer back to the original claim so that you are documenting the longevity of the illness.”

The Legion of the Silver Rose has been a beneficiary of Post #27 Legion Riders’ charity fundraisers for a few years, but this will be the first time the post has hosted the event.

For more information about the 2018 Legion of the Silver Rose Induction Ceremony, contact Jerry Becker: 623-297-5470.

To learn more about the effects of Agent Orange, go to: www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/

Photo above: American Legion Riders from AJ Post #27 will host event to honor veterans exposed to Agent Orange

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