Spanberger leads introduction of bill supporting establishment of National Atomic Veterans Day
Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) is leading a bipartisan effort urging the recognition of America’s Atomic Veterans — including those who were exposed to harmful levels of radiation during their service in the Armed Forces.
Atomic veterans participated in nuclear tests between 1945 and 1963, served with U.S. military forces in or around Hiroshima and Nagasaki before 1946, or were held as prisoners of war in or near Hiroshima or Nagasaki. According to the Atomic Veterans Foundation, due to their exposure to unsafe levels of radiation during their service, many of these Atomic Veterans developed serious health complications.
As these veterans were sworn to secrecy, many of them were prevented from seeking medical care or disability compensation and were never fully recognized for their sacrifice.
To begin the process of acknowledging the critical role Atomic Veterans played in protecting the United States, Spanberger led the introduction of a bipartisan bill that would establish the designation of an annual National Atomic Veterans Day.
“Atomic Veterans bravely served our nation — but this service came at a great personal cost. Atomic Veterans were sworn to secrecy – a promise they kept – prohibiting them from sharing their stories and experiences with loved ones or even medical providers once they fell ill, often at young ages with illnesses linked to their radiation exposure. Thousands of Atomic Veterans have passed away without ever having told their families about the true extent of their service,” Spanberger said. “These veterans patriotically served and protected our nation, and those who are still with us deserve to be recognized for their bravery and their devotion to their duty. By supporting the designation of an annual ‘National Atomic Veterans Day’ each July 16, this bipartisan bill would honor the contributions of America’s Atomic Veterans and thank them for their tireless commitment to our nation’s safety and security.”
“For nearly 50 years, I and many others were sworn to secrecy about the work we did for our country in the military — work which regularly exposed us to radiation. While I have been blessed with health, many of the individuals I served with suffered from the consequences of being exposed to radiation and were prevented by their oaths from seeking the proper medical care or VA disability benefits,” Gillie Jenkins of Chesterfield County. “It is important for our country to know about atomic veterans. We’re the forgotten group. I thank Rep. Spanberger for introducing this resolution to finally recognize the important role played by the atomic veterans in the defense of our nation.”
Spanberger led the effort alongside Rodney Davis (R-IL-13), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX-18), and Van Taylor (R-TX-03).
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan designated July 16 as National Atomic Veterans’ Day. The day was “dedicated to those patriotic Americans who through their participation in these tests helped lead the United States to the forefront of technology in defense of our great Nation and the freedoms we as Americans hold so dear.”
President Reagan’s designation was only for the single day of July 16, 1983 — and not in each succeeding year.
The bipartisan legislation supports the designation of July 16 of every year as National Atomic Veterans Day. July 16 marks the anniversary of “Trinity” — the world’s first detonation of a nuclear device in Alamogordo, N.M., on July 16, 1945.