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Bipartisan McGovern Amendment Honoring Atomic Veterans Approved

Provision Honoring Veterans Exposed to Radiation in Nuclear Weapons Tests Approved By House Unanimously

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Washington, July 14, 2017 | comments

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) applauded passage of his bipartisan provision to honor “atomic veterans,” service members exposed to radiation during U.S. nuclear weapons tests. The amendment was offered to H.R. 2810, the National Defense Authorization Act and co-sponsored by Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN). It passed the House today by a unanimous vote of 424-0. Click here to view video of Congressman McGovern’s speech.

“Today I am pleased the House passed our bipartisan amendment to finally honor Atomic Veterans, true American heroes who bravely served our country and were exposed to radiation during U.S. nuclear weapons tests. Honoring these veterans and their families is long overdue and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to do the right thing and join us in recognizing their service.

“Between 1945 and 1962, about 225,000 members of our Armed Forces participated in hundreds of nuclear weapons tests. Now known as Atomic Veterans, these GIs were placed in extremely dangerous areas and were constantly exposed to potentially dangerous levels of radiation in performance of their duties. They were sworn to secrecy, unable to even talk to their doctors about their past exposure to radiation.

“Thankfully, Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush recognized the Atomic Veterans’ valiant service, and acted to provide specialized care and compensation for their harrowing duty.



“Tragically, more than 75 percent of Atomic Veterans have already passed away, never having received this recognition. They served honorably and kept a code of silence that most certainly led to many of these veterans passing away all too soon.”

Click here to view video of Congressman McGovern’s speech.

Full Text of Congressman McGovern’s Speech:

“This amendment would simply create a service medal to be awarded to Atomic Veterans or their surviving family members in honor of their service and sacrifice to our nation.

“Between 1945 and 1962, about 225,000 members of our Armed Forces participated in hundreds of nuclear weapons tests. Now known as Atomic Veterans, these GIs were placed in extremely dangerous areas and were constantly exposed to potentially dangerous levels of radiation in performance of their duties. They were sworn to secrecy, unable to even talk to their doctors about their past exposure to radiation.

“Thankfully, Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush recognized the Atomic Veterans’ valiant service, and acted to provide specialized care and compensation for their harrowing duty.

“In 2007, our allies Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia enacted their versions of this amendment by authorizing a medal to honor their Atomic Veterans who served with the United States.

“Regrettably, the Pentagon remains silent on honoring the service of our Atomic Veterans, arguing that to do so would diminish the service of other military personnel who are tasked with dangerous missions. This is a pitiful excuse.

“Tragically, more than 75 percent of Atomic Veterans have already passed away, never having received this recognition. They served honorably and kept a code of silence that most certainly led to many of these veterans passing away all too soon.

“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.

“I call upon all my House colleagues to support this amendment. We owe it to our Veterans to recognize them for their selfless service to our nation.”

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