NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Howard Goldin is a veteran whose service in Vietnam never ended.
The Rockland County man is packing once again, with his heart full of compassion and forgiveness, but scarred by deep loss because he was sprayed with Agent Orange more than 50 years ago.
The 72-year-old Army veteran is returning to Vietnam for his 11th humanitarian trip – a mission very different than war.
“It’s 52 years, it’s time to let that part go and move on,” Goldin told CBS2.
For a year the Rockland County man was stationed in Vietnam, dealing with the unimaginable, including getting sprayed with Agent Orange.
“It comes down as when you see an air show and you see the smoke, that’s similar expect it wasn’t smoke.”
The chemical was supposed to help soldiers by killing vegetation, but eventually caused plenty of health problems for countless soldiers including Goldin. Hackensack University Medical Center saved his life. They put 15 stents in his heart.
“He has had multiple heart attacks and close heat attacks and stents improved his symptoms traumatically,” Dr. Lucy Safi said.
These health issues could also be passed on genetically to the children of soldiers, which happened to Howard’s late son, Jason.
“He exhibited early signs of severe respiratory problems, dyslexia, hearing problems… Got worse and died before his 23rd birthday.”
Shortly after his son’s death, Howard met someone else impacted by the disease. A young adopted girl from Vietnam, whose father also died because of Agent Orange.
“We realized we are talking to the granddaughter of an enemy soldier and that never happened, so we were fascinated by her.”
He took that girl back to Vietnam to be meet her biological family but didn’t realize on that trip the war inside of him would finally end when he saw the help needed in the country.
“We wanted to put the war behind us, I was angry, lost a son, had a heart attack… We saw the human side of it and they were just like us.”
Eventually Goldin started going back every year to build schools and bring supplies to kids living in poverty and impacted by Agent Orange, and recruiting friends to come with him.
“You turn the bad that happened while we were there into the good. That is happening now each time we go back,” Vietnam veteran Edward Frank said.
Next month they will take a half a ton of supplies with them.
For more information on how to donate to Goldin’s cause, click here.