Editor’s note: Dedication of the Orange Heart Memorial will take place on Veterans Day, Wednesday, Nov.11, at 3:30 p.m. at Springfield Memorial Gardens, Funeral Home & Cremation Center 4005 Memorial Blvd.
My name is Joyce Gentry. I am the vice president and director of grants for the Orange Heart Medal Foundation and I am also a Gold Star Wife.
It is hard to, in a few words, help you to understand what all we are doing and the passion that is fueling us to do this. Ken Gamble is the Founder of the Orange Heart Medal Foundation. He is a Brown Water, Gator Navy veteran that served in Vietnam.
He is a retired business owner from Nashville and grew up in Springfield.
My husband, Mike Gentry was an Army Combat Engineer in Vietnam. He was twice awarded the Purple Heart among other distinguished honors.
Mike grew up in East Nashville. He came home from Vietnam and soon after joined the Metropolitan Police Department where he spent almost 19 years. He was a patrol officer and a Newman's Raider Motorcycle Officer until injuries while on the job ended his career. He spent his entire life serving his country and community. He is my hero.
Ken dreamed of the Orange Heart Medal while he was in the VA hospital receiving treatment for his cancer, caused by Agent Orange exposure. Mike lost his battle with Leukemia, also caused by Agent Orange on Nov. 9, 2017.
Agent Orange was a herbicide that was used widely during the Vietnam war to kill the foliage. The soldiers were told it was not harmful to them. Today, approximately 400 Vietnam veterans are dying every day from the effects of Agent Orange that they were exposed to 50 years ago. The exposure has also in many cases affected the veteran's children and grandchildren.
We, as Tennesseans, are leading the way in making sure that these veterans are never forgotten. This memorial is the first of its kind. We have already 325 names added to the memorial in its first phase.
While the memorial itself will be permanently located in Springfield, it bears the names of veterans from all over the country and we have folks attending the memorial from as far away as Hawaii, Alaska, California, and several other states.
The memorial is for any veteran that made it home from Vietnam. If they have died from or are suffering from Agent Orange, then an orange heart is placed beside their name. We have also worked with local legislature and Tennessee was the first state to pass a law recognizing Agent Orange as herbicidal warfare. The Bill is HJR01og.