With over 195,000 to 225,000 Atomic Veterans that served between 1945 to 1962 being exposed to radiation, the long fight to get recognized is finally over. After being sworn to secrecy about the nuclear program of the United States, these veterans have fought against diseases and disabilities that have resulted from their time serving within active nuclear test sites or those exposed to atomic bomb effects during the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings.
Last December 27, 2021, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was signed into law by President Biden. In this legislation, atomic veterans were recognized to emphasize their contribution to the military success of the nuclear weapons program.
The policy creates a special “Atomic Veterans Commemorative Service Medal” to honor veterans and their families who have served willingly, exposing their bodies to radition in testing the effects of nuclear weapons under development.
US Representative Jim McGovern, a long-time peace advocate, expressed both his happiness and grief with the law’s passage. He stated that it took an incredibly long time for US atomic veterans to be publicly acknowledged, with many dying due to illnesses suspected of being induced by their radiation exposure. He was notably the congressman who filed the first Atomic Veterans Service Medal Act in 2014, which is why the law’s passage is an incredible win for his advocacy.