T BENHQUICKE BONEYARD
AGENT ORANGE: A CHAPTER OF HISTORY THAT JUST WON’T END
THE FIRST THINGS I SEE are the tails of the planes. They jut
like hundreds of dorsal fins rising from prehistoric fish that have
been lined up by a butcher on a massive table of thin brown grass.
It is a surreal sight, and I allow my eyes to settle into the rhythm
of motion—not quite focused, not quite gone—watching the rows
of sharp metal ridges whir past at fifty miles per hour.
As I crest a small rise, the bodies of the craft come into full
view: rows and rows of warplanes, all shapes and sizes, stretching on forever, it seems. I force myself back to the task at hand,
navigating the approach to the Aerospace Maintenance and
Regeneration Center (AMARC) on the southeast side of Tucson,
Arizona. I turn right at the traffic light on Kolb Road into a small
parking lot and find a space.
Ten minutes later, I’m riding shotgun in a black van with
government plates. My driver, head of public relations at
AMARC, is Terry. Middle-aged, handsome, and soft in her talk
and manners, Terry asks me what I want to see. I hesitate—not
because I don’t know, but because I’m not sure how to tell her
that I’ve come to bear witness to American folly, to rest my eyes
on the flying machines that flattened the forests of Southeast
Asia, poisoned its people, and changed my life.