Cuban Veterans Poisoned by Agent Orange
The temperature hovered slightly above freezing near the end of winter 1963. A small group of soldiers who had recently been transferred to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, stood in line outside dusty barracks. They looked curiously at 55-gallon steel drums painted with an orange band. After a few minutes, a gruff sergeant called their names and serial numbers, and they walked into a closed room. They stood still for a few minutes as a chemical spray settled over their green fatigues and penetrated their pores.
"The only proof we have of this is in the lists they used to... take us to the gas chambers," says Carlos Ruiz-Rojas, a 72-year-old Cuban refugee who joined the U.S. Army at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. "And right before entering the gas chambers, they specified very clearly that after entering, we had to stand there without moving.
For more than two decades, Ruiz-Rojas, backed by affidavits from other members of a special infantry unit made up of Cuban refugees, has been fighting a battle with the U.S. government. He says the Army intentionally exposed dozens of Cuban-American soldiers to Agent Orange, a highly toxic dioxin compound used in the Vietnam War to destroy jungle canopy and deny North Vietnamese soldiers and Vietcong guerrillas vegetative cover.