Heriberto (Eddie) Abreo
El Paso, Texas
This story is told by surviving members of Eddie’s family so that his death not be in vain. Even though he did not die on the battlefields of Vietnam, he did die as a result of that war shortly after he left the Army.
Eddie was drafted on February 2, 1968 at the age of 23 years and for two years served as a chemical staff specialist with the 267th CML Co USARIS in Vietnam. Discharged in 1970, he re-enlisted and deployed again to Vietnam, serving as a chemical staff specialist assigned to HHC AMEAL Div with duty at Division Chemical and 27th Chem Det 196 Inf Brigade Vietnam. He was promoted to CBR Operations Sgt March 1972 at the 82nd Chem Det FGGM Maryland, after he returned from Vietnam.
His entire stay at Vietnam involved working with chemicals, in CBR, including the deadly Agent Orange. He often relayed the stories of his experiences in Vietnam and they all included his exposure to the toxic gases he was spraying all over Vietnam from a Huey helicopter. As reported, and argued, the Army used Agent Orange to defoliate the countryside apparently convinced that the toxicity created would have no ill-effects on the troops. This argument continues to this day, but Eddie, our son and brother, is proof that the chemical is deadly.
Eddie was a specimen of health when he was drafted and he served the Army well while in Vietnam, receiving various commendation medals, such as the Vietnam Service Medal, Campaign Medal, Air Medal, Army Commendation w/ Oak Leaf cluster, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm, Aircraft Crewman Badge and several others. Even though he was initially drafted, he voluntarily re-enlisted for four additional tours and eventually served a total of 13 years as a US Army soldier. His last tour of duty commenced on 3/5/79 and he was promoted to Sgt First Class on 8/1/79.
Throughout his entire career, Eddie was assigned to work with chemicals with duties as Chemical Staff NCO, Bn NBC NCO, Platoon Sergeant with the 44th Chem 2nd Armor, at Ft Hood, Tx. It was during his last tour while at Ft Hood, that Eddie started displaying symptoms of over-exposure to the Agent Orange and other chemicals he had been exposed to during his army career.
Whenever he went home on leave he would always have a beer in hand – it was nonstop drinking all day. He never got drunk, he just drank. His response when asked why he drank so much was that the beer was the only thing that would help his throbbing headaches. This went on for almost two years – he would go on sick call at the army base constantly and all he ever got was aspirin. According to Eddie, no one at the Army base bothered to delve into the cause of his headaches. Eventually, the Army Honorably Discharged him on May 22, 1981, but clouded by a separation under Article 9, AR 635-200 for alcohol abuse.Shortly after he was discharged, he was at work when he collapsed, went into a coma with blood gurgling out of his mouth. Two days afterwards he was taken off-life support and died of a massive brain tumor officially classified as a bone marrow depression with intracerebral hemorrage. The contributing factor was, of course, the Agent Orange, which was not supposed to be toxic.