Veterans deserve the utmost respect for their service. Putting themselves in harm’s way, service members make great sacrifices for our freedom.

As a member of the Legislature’s Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs, as well as a Marine Corps veteran of the Korean War era, father of a recently retired soldier and grandfather of a man currently serving in the Navy, I care deeply about those who have served our country.

The Legislature recently passed a measure that would direct the Maine Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management commissioner to ask the federal government to recognize and compensate Maine National Guard veterans for their exposure to Agent Orange at the Canadian military base in Gagetown, New Brunswick.

During the late 1960s, the National Guard tested herbicides, including Agent Orange, which was used during the Vietnam War to remove trees and plants that provided enemy cover and was believed not to be harmful to humans.

It was later learned that Agent Orange poses a number of health risks and has been linked to birth defects, Parkinson’s disease, Hodgkin’s disease, multiple myeloma, peripheral neuropathy and multiple forms of cancer.

Many American and Canadian service members spent two weeks per year for 20 to 30 years at the Gagetown base, and many veterans have suffered from problems associated with Agent Orange.

The Canadian government provides a $20,000 settlement to each of its affected soldiers, plus coverage of medical expenses for illnesses related to chemical exposure.

While the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes and compensates veterans for their exposure in Vietnam, Thailand, Korea and some military bases in and outside the United States, it does not currently recognize veterans’ exposure at Gagetown.

The V.A. should acknowledge that our service members were put in harm’s way and extend coverage to those who trained at Gagetown.

Rep. Thomas R.W. LongstaffWaterville