Modesto veteran exposed to Agent Orange to attend State of the Union

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MODESTO, Calif. (KTXL) -- Joshua Melendez was one of the millions of soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War. For him, it was about freedom.

“To fight for our country, no matter if it was right or wrong, we were soldiers,” Melendez said.

FOX40 last met Melendez back in December and since that time, his message of standing up for veterans’ health care has not wavered.

“The important thing is that these veterans get help,” he said.

Melendez has been battling bladder cancer since 2015. The National Academy of Medicine says conditions like his stem from exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange.

But like so many others, Melendez's cancer is not covered by Veterans Affairs.

“And that’s the sad part of it, is that, if you’re held up for money, it’s a very sad, sad situation,” he told FOX40.

Melendez has been working with Representative Josh Harder, D-Modesto. Soon, he will take his message to Washington as Harder’s guest at the annual State of the Union address.

“He invited me to the State of the Union address, which put me in a shock,” Melendez said. “I mean, who gets invited to the State of the Union?”

Rep. Harder recently introduced the Fair Care for Vietnam Veterans Act, a bipartisan effort that would cover veterans like Melendez.

“I just feel that something has to be done,” Melendez said.

Melendez says his health has also taken an emotional toll on his wife and kids. He says it’s important to provide emotional and other supportive programs to veterans and their families.

While Melendez faces many more doctor appointments and tests, His belief sustains him.

“Our faith upholds us and that’s the best part,” he said. “We will soldier on.”


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