Today is veteran's day, a fitting holiday for 'The Dirt' to say a huge THANK YOU to those who have served. Not only because of the huge sacrifice in time, energy, health and mental overhead our troops and their families make every year but also because a veteran was a huge inspiration to me, Shannon; the founder of 'The Dirt'
My father (The handsome, Bing Crosby meets Paul Newman guy pictured left) served in the Vietnam war many many years before I was born. He signed up for the Marine Corps at the age of 18 for what he thought was going to be a 1 year stint. In what seems like a scene out of a hollywood comedy about teens in the 60's my dad's friends thought it would be funny to get back at him for stealing their girlfriends and signed him up for 3 or so the story goes. Obviously they had no idea what war was really going to be like... and seriously 1967... who lets someone's friends sign them up for the armed services???
By the time I was born my father was 36 and Vietnam was over 15 years behind him. I always heard stories of how he would have little flash backs once in a while if you woke him up too quickly. He once attempted in his sleep to pin down and hold an imaginary knife to someone who tried to wake him for breakfast. When I was a kid, I found the story sort of funny, as an adult I can now comprehend the incredible trauma he must have experienced to be THAT defensive a decade later.
My father told me a lot of stories about the war, how he had to cook rats over napalm while under siege at khe sanh. How they had to run like hell though enemy fire to try and get on the cargo planes unable to land and evacuate them. How some guys couldn't run fast enough and how the plane he just barely missed getting on was blown out of the air only a few hundred meters in the sky. Perhaps most solemnly, he would sometimes talk about a local village girl that would wash their clothes every week. He even had a picture of her, she looked about 11 or so. After a fight broke out in the village near by, he found her body parts tangled up in barbed wire only feet from the safety of jungle cover. He would always sort of look away after telling that story.
I'm sorry to be so graphic but war is not pretty, being the daughter of a veteran I feel extremely passionate about making people aware of the absolute horror of war. Take a moment and realize he saw all of this and more before he was legal to vote.
What really changed my life did not surface until 30 years later. During his time in Vietnam my father started smoking, it was the recommended distraction to get soldiers minds off of the jungle rot that would plague their soggy feet. He also was exposed to a jungle defoliant called Agent Orange. In an effort to fight the Viet Cong, Monsanto and the Dow corporation invented a dioxin compound that was described as "perhaps the most toxic molecule ever synthesized by man" sprayed via helicopters all over the country of Vietnam. Agent Orange would basically melt the jungle (and food crops) to the ground.
It also caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, and birth defects in humans and livestock. in 1970 highly elevated levels of Dioxin (the main poison in the AO) was found in the breast milk of Vietnamese women and the American veterans of the war. Still births, cleft pallet, extra fingers and toes, skin disease, respiratory disease and lung cancer was common. I'll spare you the image results of googling "Agent Orange Birth Defects"
Combine dioxin from Agent orange with a smoking habit and In 1999 my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer, I was 15. He battled though radiation therapy and chemo for 5 years, changing from a strong, happy, very tan (see above image), witty able bodied finish carpenter to a frail skeleton of a man who looked 40 years older than he was, pale as a sheet and hardly able to put together a full sentence. In march of 2004 my dad passed away, I was not yet 21.
My father's battle with cancer, his courage and strength inspired me to change my life. It was during my high school career that he was going through treatment, as I watched what chemicals had done and were doing to his body I started to eat better, buy natural products and use less plastic.
Now 8 years since he passed, I can count on one hand how many products in my house come in plastic containers. I only eat organic, grass fed, pasteurized, soy free, gluten free I'm pretty strictly paleo. To me the cost of food is not an issue, my body is literally making it's self out of what I eat. It's also absorbing everything I put on it, people don't realize how many chemicals they ingest via personal care products like lotion, shampoo, toothpaste and cleaning products. Your skin absorbs 60-100% of what you put on it, and it pretty much goes straight into your system unlike food which goes though quite a few filtering steps.
I started 'The Dirt' because I realized that many of the "natural" personal care products I was using still had questionable ingredients. In a world where we have access to so many amazing 100% natural solutions to our problems why on earth would you not treat your body with the best care possible. To err on the side of caution when fueling your system you only get one.
I have been fortunate, many children of Vietnam vets suffer from health problems (even grand children) of the list of over 200 symptoms alleged to be cause by inherited effects of Agent Orange I can only say I may have exceptionally sensitive skin, dyslexia, migraines and undefined stomach pain. Of course, officially Monsanto denies that Agent Orange causes any harm to veterans, much like their current round of chemicals and genetically modified plants claim to not cause any health issues.
If you've made it this far I commend your blog length tolerance :) So today, do me a favor and hug a vet. Thank them for putting their health, both physical and mental, on the line for you. Use your vote and your tax dollar wisely, there is no reason any human should ever be exposed to these horrors, but the soldiers went did so bravely, they did what they had to, they came back and survived it.
So to all the veterans both old and young, and to those who are still far from home. Thank you.
...and as a footnote F*&%^ Monsanto.