But fate put Galinac — and thousands of others — in the path of a killer as deadly but far more stealthy than their North Vietnamese foe. And more than 40 years later, the strategy the U.S. military deployed to decimate that jungle has leveled a lethal legacy.
Galinac is among the roughly 2.8 million U.S. military personnel — out of 7.4 million total — who served in Vietnam between 1962 and 1971 and were exposed to Agent Orange, one of several potent defoliants deployed by the military to destroy the Vietnamese jungle and, along with it, the enemy’s hiding place.
Galinac died at the age of 64 on April 24, 2013, almost two years after being diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer, common among Vietnam veterans.
His story — and that of the other men profiled in this account and thousands of others with untold stories — traces the trajectory of Vietnam veterans, who contend with deadly maladies caused by exposure to Agent Orange and a U.S. government that has, at times, been unresponsive to their needs.
In recent years, amid a military drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan, the VA has been plagued with systemic incompetence as hundreds of thousands of veterans languish in protracted lists, waiting to be processed or seen for medical care. Some have died waiting.
Against this modern day VA crisis, the epilogue to the Vietnam veterans’ narrative plays out largely away from the nation’s scrutiny.