Friday, November 9, 2007

Veterans Day Special 1

July 1957

“It was the dirtiest test stateside in terms of radiation fallout,” says R.J. Ritter, national commander of the National Association of Atomic Veterans. “And they walked about 2,200 Marines right into ground zero.”

Test shot Hood was five times greater than the bomb that killed 90,000 people in Hiroshima, Japan. And no one was sure what would happen this close to ground zero.

We'll never know what Marine Maj. Charles Broudy saw in the trenches when Hood exploded. Or what he breathed when he marched – like King and Brower – to ground zero. He died of lymphoma in 1977.

Broudy's widow Pat Broudy, 83, of Dana Point, fought an 11-year battle to help win benefits for atomic veterans, who now can claim relief for 21 kinds of cancers.

For many, however, it's too little, too late.

“Most of our guys are old,” she says. “And they don't have the fight or will or knowledge to confront our government agencies anymore.”

The number of living atomic veterans is hard to place. But the National Association of Atomic Veterans estimates that more than 900,000 men and women took part in about 1,000 nuclear tests from 1945 to 1992. And more than 140,000 may have suffered cancer or other illnesses as a result.

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How about including the Atomic Veterans, the old soldiers who are quickly fading away --- many of them with suffering from the mutations created by ionizing radiation.

It took several million Vietnam Veterans 15 years before our government began dealing with the affects of Agent Orange.

The half-million original Atomic Veterans have been fighting their war since the first atomic device was detonated in 1945.

Congress will not even give a medal to recognize these old soldiers, those who endured the atmospheric and underwater testing from1945 through 1962.

Another half-million suffered in the underground testing 1962-1992. I am one of those veterans. Thousands of American troops serving in the Iraq War have been exposed to radiation through the depleted uranium used to harden projectile casings. They are the new generation of Atomic Veterans.

I am fighting for those original Atomic Veterans, who have asked time after time for a medal to honor their service and sacrifice. They deserve it. The current bills were introduced about a month ago, and they are in the Veterans Committees of the House and the Senate. They will just sit there unless people like you express your feelings to your Congressmen and Senators. Those who serve on the Veterans and Armed Services Committees have a special responsibility to move on the legislation promptly so that the full bodies can vote on it.

If our nation won't honor those old soldiers, we should be ashamed.

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