ROCKFORD (WREX) -
Arlene Conti Blades proudly holds a picture of her brother Terry Conti. The Vietnam Veteran lost his battle to cancer in September of 2014.
"He was my hero, he was my protector," Arlene says. "Terry was very proud, proud of being a United States Marine and proud of serving his country and he said he would never ever change that ever."
Conti served in the Vietnam War from 1973 to 1975. While overseas he was exposed to a herbicide known as Agent Orange.
"It was a defoliate they spread from aircraft and Hueys to get ride of the foliage so that the enemy wouldn't have any cover to hid in and unfortunately that was a poison," says Nick Parnello the President of the Vietnam Veterans Honors Society.
According to the American Cancer Society over 1 million U.S. soldiers were exposed to the chemical during the war. As a result, experts say some of them experienced harsh after effects. Vets reported several different health problems, including cancer.
"Our veterans as they started to get a little older started suffering and dying from this poison that was spread in Vietnam," Parnello says.
Now local veterans are honoring their fallen brothers. On Sunday a ceremony was held to introduce the new Agent Orange Memorial.
"It's for seven men that died from Agent Orange and unfortunately it looks like there is going to be many more," Parnello says.
Terry Conti's name shines brightly on the memorial. His sister, Arlene proudly points at it as she remembers her hero.
"This is Terry, he makes me so proud. He's truly a hero, truly a hero," Arlene says.
The new memorial is located at the site of the LZ Peace Memorial.