Nagasaki, Japan under atomic bomb attack / U.S. Army A.A.F. photo. – https://www.loc.gov/resource/ds.05458
Washington, D.C. – President Joseph R. Biden Jr. declared July 16, 2023, as National Atomic Veterans Day, honoring the brave service and sacrifice of the members of the U.S. Armed Forces who participated in nuclear tests or were exposed to radioactive material from 1945 to 1962.
In a proclamation, President Biden acknowledged the familiar yet lesser-known story of the Atomic Veterans who faced new risks and destruction at the dawn of the nuclear age. The devastating effects witnessed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki underscored the dangers associated with these tests.
The Atomic Veterans, bound by secrecy throughout their service and beyond, were unable to discuss the nature of their experiences and contributions. Consequently, many faced difficulties in accessing necessary care for the serious health conditions they developed due to radiation exposure. Claims for injuries and diseases associated with their service were often denied, leaving many Atomic Veterans without proper treatment for radiation-induced cancers.
While the repeal of the Nuclear Radiation and Secrecy Agreements Act in 1996 allowed Atomic Veterans to finally share their stories and receive benefits, thousands had already passed away without their families knowing the full extent of their service. Presently, there are still Atomic Veterans who remain unaware of the benefits available to them through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
President Biden emphasized the sacred obligation of the nation to prepare those who serve and to care for them and their families when they return home. His administration has enacted laws to support veterans who developed cancer and other medical conditions due to exposure during their service, including the significant PACT Act.
On National Atomic Veterans Day, Americans are called upon to remember the service of these brave individuals and to honor their sacrifices made for the safety and security of the nation. The proclamation encourages appropriate ceremonies and activities that highlight the contributions of Atomic Veterans and their important role in the defense of the United States.
President Biden’s proclamation concludes with a call to continue building a future of peace and a world free from the threat of nuclear weapons.