Current Board Members
Heather was born with multiple birth defects due to her father’s exposure, as a US soldier during the Vietnam War, to the chemical defoliant, Agent Orange.
Born in 1972, Heather was two months premature; she weighed three pounds, four ounces. Heather is missing her right leg below the knee, several of her fingers, her big toe on her left foot, her remaining toes were webbed.
She started her activism early in her life alongside her parents in the late 1970s. As a young child, she had a passion to explain what the chemical Agent Orange had done to her family. Like how her mother, Sharon, suffered three unexplained miscarriages and her father had five bypasses at the age of 38 and died of a massive heart attack at age 50.
As a former high school teacher, and current mental health licensed professional, Heather uses her skills to reach out and educate others on the devastation that is Agent Orange. She has a strong belief in empowering all second and third generations of Agent Orange survivors, to use their voice when possible to speak out and tell others about Agent Orange.
Heather has traveled to Vietnam, several times, to learn about the suffering the Vietnamese people and the continued negative impact on the environment in Vietnam. She co-founded Children of Vietnam Veterans Health Alliance a 501(c)(3) non-profit with a mission of Agent Orange advocacy for children of Vietnam Veterans including second and third generation American victims of Agent Orange and Dioxin Exposures worldwide.
Vice President/Secretary/National Coordinator
Tanya Mack is 42 years old and the daughter of Vietnam Veteran SSGT who was a Combat Controller in the United States Air Force and was part of the Special Operations Squadron, 101st Airborne Unit in the A Shau Valley from October 1966 – April 1668.
Tanya was born with severe hip dysplasia and started having hip reconstruction surgery at just four months old. After 15 hip reconstruction surgeries, at 17 years of age she had her first total hip replacement surgery. 22 years later, she has had a total of four hip replacements with a fifth replacement needed within the next six months.
At 32 years old she started to develop multiple Basal Cell and Squamous Cell Carcinomas. They were very aggressive and according to the pathology reports, were a different mutation than what they normally see in these types of cancers. After genetic testing was done, she was diagnosed with Basal Cell Nevus Syndrome (also known as Gorlin Syndrome).
This was a result of a mutation in her PTCH1 gene that has been attributed to her father’s exposure to Agent Orange. Currently, she has had 198 skin biopsies of which 181 were positive for cancer. By the time she was 34 she had a total hysterectomy due to Squamous Cell Carcinoma in her uterus and on her ovaries. In 2010, she was diagnosed with Melanoma.
She was fortunate that it was caught early and had not spread to her lymph nodes, however, it did spread far enough to have tissue and muscle removed. In August 2011 she was diagnosed with another rare form of cancer called Bowens Disease. Bowens Disease is caused by extreme exposure to Arsenic and is considered Arsenic poisoning. She has never worked or been exposed to herbicides and pesticides, other than through her father’s exposure to Agent Orange. Over 50% of the compound used in Agent Orange was Arsenic.
At 35 years old she was diagnosed with Lupus and Reynaud’s Disease, neither of which there is a family history of. Shortly thereafter she was also informed that the severe back pain that she was having was curve in her spine. At 41 Tanya was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, which she is currently in treatment for at the City of Hope, Duarte, California.
On August 21, 2012, her father passed away from lung cancer and colon cancer. He was 64 years old. His cancer had been attributed to his exposure to Agent Orange. At the time of his death, he was receiving benefits from the V.A. and was considered 100% disabled due to service-connected Agent Orange exposure. Tanya now serves as Vice President of COVVHA.
Vice President/Treasurer/National Coordinator
Valerie “Val” Ouillette is a 41-year-old New Jersey native, and daughter of a Vietnam Veteran. She is in the minority, as her father is still alive, and only began dealing with the more severe physical manifestations of Agent Orange since 2007.
Her father was an athlete in his younger years, and anything they ate was personally grown or wild harvested. She believes that this helped slow the progression of the damage caused by the Agent Orange. Today he is also living with Diabetes, Ischemic Heart Disease, severe anxiety, Agent Orange syndrome, and Hepatitis C that he contracted via an experimental vaccine given to him by the military. He is currently in remission. He suffers from severe and sub-optimally treated PTSD.
Valerie was exposed to the words “Agent Orange” as a young child in the early 1980s when her family became part of a class action lawsuit. Her older brother was the first child born after her father’s return from Vietnam. He was born with numerous congenital defects including cardiac defects, Cerebral Palsy, Hydrocephalus, severe cognitive delays, blindness, etc. He passed away at the age of two years, and was part of a study used in the class action lawsuit.
Valerie stopped working as an EMT because of the dysfunction of her autonomic nervous system secondary to MAST cell activation disorder, and early stages of Addison’s disease (abnormal adrenal function). She has been dealing with multiple medical issues since birth. Her ailments today include anxiety/depression secondary to her PTSD, Ehlers-Danlos (rare connective tissue disease), endometriosis, fibromyalgia, etc.