JShu on the Journey

A Kansan takes on Missouri

Posts Tagged ‘Veterans

National Atomic Veterans’ Day

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Today (Friday, although I’m still in a Thursday mindset) is National Atomic Veterans’ Day. I learned that this holiday existed literally three days ago, through work, and was promptly given the task to procure some veterans who fit the bill for a story.

The thing you learn in a newspaper career is exactly how much you don’t know about the world around you.

This designation came about in 1983 by Ronald Reagan, to honor the men and women who served in varying ways in the years following WWII by participating in nuclear weapons tests. Those who were in Japan after the bombs were dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were also eligible, which makes sense, because the day basically recognizes the service of veterans who went into the unknown gray area of going anywhere near nuclear weapons/material.

One man I spoke with was 10 miles away from an atomic bomb drop in the Pacific. 10 miles. He checks in with skin doctors every so often, and believes his medical problems trace back to the exposure.He refuses to join the American Legion because his wife left him after he returned from Vietnam, she greeted him with a divorce. She’d found an American Legion man while he was away. He almost cried. I hate it when interviewees cry. Doubly so when they are 80-year-old men.

Then there’s Man B. He was in a trench 300 yards away from an atomic artillery projectile’s ‘ground zero.’ He now has bone cancer, and can’t really receive normal treatment (radiation) because…well, his body has plenty of that already from his past exposure. Still, he has lived a long life, and is gracefully bowing out when it’s his time.

It’s really striking how the 220,000-some men and women who either watched these nuclear tests in person, or handled the after-effects, they had no idea what would happen to them, or the effects of radiation, really. It’s also striking how little I know about American history. It’s humbling to come across someone who lived it, to whom this part of history is particularly important.

It really is amazing the daily sacrifices soldiers make for this country.

Written by Jessica

July 15, 2010 at 11:14 pm