**Click Here for Photos from the Event**
RICHMOND, V.A. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today gathered with Central Virginia veterans — including Atomic Veterans — at the Virginia War Memorial to mark President Joe Biden’s proclamation of July 16 as “National Atomic Veterans Day.”
Atomic Veterans participated in nuclear tests between 1945 and 1962, 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. Due to their exposure to unsafe levels of radiation during their service, many of these Atomic Veterans developed serious health complications. Additionally, 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.
During a press conference on Friday morning, Spanberger spoke alongside Central Virginia veterans to recognize the critical role Atomic Veterans played in protecting the United States. Spanberger was joined by Central Virginia veterans, as well as representatives from the National Association of Atomic Veterans, the American Legion, the Virginia Department of Veterans Services, the Fawn Lake Veterans Group, and the Virginia War Memorial.
“The stories of Atomic Veterans are important for remembering our past — they are the stories of those who served, stories of their dangerous and secret missions, and stories of a complex and veiled history as the United States rose to prominence as the most powerful nation in the world. With the proclamation of July 16, 2021 as National Atomic Veterans Day, we have a unique opportunity to honor the contributions of America’s Atomic Veterans — and we have a chance to recommit our support to these Atomic Veterans and educate ourselves about the role they played in keeping our nation safe,” said Spanberger. “Today, I was honored to mark National Atomic Veterans Day alongside Central Virginia veterans and those who support them. I am incredibly grateful to President Biden and his administration for designating today as National Atomic Veterans Day — and I will be working in Congress to ensure this designation becomes an annual designation, so that we commemorate National Atomic Veterans Day every year and give our Atomic Veterans the support they have earned.”
“Those who join the U.S. military are called to action in some of the most dangerous places and situations one can imagine,” said John Maxwell, Commissioner, Virginia Department of Veterans Services. “This proclamation, ensuring a recognition day for atomic veterans, is an important reminder that it takes immense sacrifice to keep our Nation free.”
“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,” said Gillie Jenkins, Director of State Commanders and Director at Large, National Association of Atomic Veterans, Chesterfield County, Virginia. “It is important for our country to know about atomic veterans. We’re the forgotten group. I thank Representative Spanberger and the Biden Administration for recognizing the important role played by the atomic veterans in the defense of our nation.”
Last month, Spanberger led the introduction of a bipartisan resolution that calls on the President to issue a proclamation in observance of National Atomic Veterans Day.
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.”