Maine wants U.S. benefits for guardsmen trained at Gagetown
Washington pushed to acknowledge National Guard members exposed to heath risks from Agent Orange
The state government of Maine is going to Washington D.C. to try to get help for members of the state's National Guard who trained at CFB Gagetown.
Over the years thousands of Maine guardsmen trained in the woods at the New Brunswick base where Agent Orange and other chemical defoliants were used.
Maine Gov. Paul Lepage has directed senior veterans department officials to ask Washington to acknowledge the hazards Maine National Guard members faced in New Brunswick. If the U.S. federal government agrees, the veterans will receive benefits they are currently not eligible to receive.
"It would allow them to get benefits that they would deserve - if it has been determined that whatever illness they have was a direct result of exposure," said Peter Rogers, the communications director for Maine's Department of Defence, Veterans and Emergency Management.
In 2007, Ottawa set aside almost $100 million for Canadians harmed at Base Gagetown by defoliants like Agent Orange.
But thousands of troops from Maine's National Guard also trained year after year in the woods at the New Brunswick base.
Rogers, who is a retired major, visited multiple times.
"You have artillery going off, you get the dust," said Rogers. "Any time you're driving on the different tank trails you have dust that kicks up. So the potential for exposure was very large."
About 300 veterans of the Maine National Guard have so far registered with the department, indicating health issues that could be linked to their chemical exposure at CFB Gagetown,
Peter Ogden, Maine's director of veteran services, suspects many more than 300 former members have health issues related to their time spent training at Gagetown.