Ms. Merle Evelyn Ratner and Honorable Bishop Thomas John Gumbleton, co-presidents of Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign (VAORRC) in the US, were awarded ‘For Vietnamese AO Victims’ insignia in Hanoi on January 23.
The award recognizes the two US citizens active contribution in the struggle for justice for Vietnam’s Agent Orange victims.
While in Ho Chi Minh City, the delegation met with veterans and visited Tu Du Peace Village, where children infected from Agent Orange are being raised; the Cu Chi Tunnels; and the Thien Phuoc Nurturing Center for disadvantaged children.
Recently, at a meeting with former Vietnamese political prisoners, who are also victims of Agent Orange, the delegation heard emotional stories about the brutal torture that the prisoners suffered in the past as well as the current difficulties in their lives.
The delegates stated that they would continue to apply to the US Government to pay compensation to AO victims, introduce a bill on support and compensation to AO victims and encourage Catholic followers and the American people to actively assist them however they can.
Speaking at the occasion, Lieutenant General Nguyen Van Rinh, President of Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange (VAVA),
said that VAORRC has operated effectively in supporting the AO victims’ lawsuit against American chemical companies. Ms Ratner and Bishop Gumbleton have worked diligently to help heal the wounds of wartime and conduct campaigns to support Vietnamese AO victims.
Among their noteworthy activities were arranged trips to the US for six delegations of AO victims and VAVA leaders and trips to Vietnam for US war veterans to raise funds for AO victims.
Ms Ratner expressed the great honor in receiving the insignia and thanked the Vietnamese Government, State and people for their warm welcome to Americans who have returned to Vietnam.
She pledged to continue to make greater efforts in the struggle for justice for Vietnamese AO victims, adding that her colleagues at VAORRC and she will continue to promote the campaign to ask the US Congress’ approval of the bill.