Washington, D.C. - Congressman Tom Emmer (MN-06) and Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-02) sent a letter to leadership of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees urging them to include a provision which would create and issue a service medal to honor our nation’s Atomic Veterans. They were joined by 21 of their colleagues. The provision was included in the House-passed version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.
Atomic Veterans are members of our Armed Forces who participated in hundreds of atmospheric nuclear weapons tests between 1945 and 1962. This group consists of 225,000 service members who were exposed to radiation during their service. To date, 80% of these veterans have already passed away without receiving the recognition they deserve.
"Our veterans are the best of America, they embody values of selflessness, patriotism, and service. These veterans deserve our support, they committed to serving their nation and incurred serious health challenges due to their service. They should receive the honor and recognition they deserve,” said Congressman Emmer. “I have long advocated for our Atomic Veterans. They suffered in silence for their unique service to the United States and it is time they are honored publicly."
"Atomic veterans were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation in performance of their duties, yet they have never been given the full respect and recognition they deserve,” said Congressman McGovern. “Sworn to silence for decades, these courageous and committed patriots paid a high price for their loyalty to our country. They kept their promise to America, and it’s long past time for us to do the right thing and formally honor their service. Congressman Emmer and I have been working on this issue for years, and we will continue fighting until Atomic Veterans get the acknowledgment they deserve for their faithful service to our nation."
Congressman Emmer and McGovern have advocated for Atomic Veterans by sponsoring the Atomic Veterans Service Medal Act, which would award a military service medal to members of the Armed Forces who were exposed to ionizing radiation as a result of participation in the testing of nuclear weapons.
Section 581 of the House Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act would require the Department of Defense to issue a service medal to the veterans or surviving families of those 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 prisoners of war in or near Hiroshima or Nagasaki.
Congressman Emmer and McGovern also cosponsored the Mark Takai Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act, which provides service-connected presumption for veterans who participated in the cleanup of Enewetak Atoll where nuclear testing was performed, between 1977 and 1980.
Read the letter here.