Sending Office: Honorable James P. McGovern
Support an Atomic Veterans Service Medal
Our amendment to the NDAA would require the Department of Defense to design and produce a military service medal to honor retired and former members of the Armed Forces who are radiation-exposed veterans. This would include members of our Armed Forces who
participated in above-ground nuclear weapons testing; were part of the U.S. military occupation forces in or around Hiroshima and Nagasaki before 1946; or were held as POWs in or near Hiroshima or Nagasaki. This amendment unanimously passed the House
last year by a vote of 424-0.
Between 1945 and 1962, about 225,000 members of our Armed Forces participated in hundreds of atmospheric nuclear weapons tests. These GIs became known as the Atomic Veterans. They were placed in extremely dangerous areas and constantly exposed to radiation
in performance of their duties. Sworn to secrecy, they could not even speak of their service to their doctors.
Atomic Veterans have been recognized, identified and acknowledged as a discrete cohort of American veterans. They have been identified by the Department of Justice for compensation under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990; recognized as eligible
for specialized testing and treatment by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs; a chapter is dedicated to describing their service and its lifetime effects in the landmark Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments (ACHRE) report; and they were publicly
acknowledged in the apology issued by President Clinton in October 3, 1995 upon release of the ACHRE final report.
In various ways, Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton acknowledged and recognized the Atomic Veterans’ valiant service and harrowing duty. In 2007, our allies Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia enacted the Atomic Veterans Medal
Act, in which a special medal was authorized to honor their Atomic Veterans who served with United States. Regrettably, the Pentagon remains silent on honoring their service, arguing that to do so would require the DOD to issue similar medals to any and all
military personnel who undertake hazardous duty, including first responders, medical personnel and firemen.
More than 75 percent of Atomic Veterans have already passed away, never having received this recognition. Past Administrations and Congresses have dealt with the thornier issues of legality and compensation. What remains is recognizing these veterans’ duty,
honor and faithful service to our nation. And time is running out.
James P. McGovern Tom Emmer
Member of Congress Member of Congress
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