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Jul-13-2010 01:45printcomments

'Atomic Veterans' to be Remembered

Oregon Atomic Veterans Day Celebration is July 16‏.

Atomic veterans
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(SALEM, Ore.) - Members of the Oregon Association of Atomic Veterans will host a ceremony and celebration in Lebanon, Friday, July 16, to remember Atomic Veterans Day.

All military veterans and their families are invited to attend the celebration being held at Lebanon's American Legion Post 51, 480 Main St., at 10:00 a.m.

A no-host lunch will be provided at 12:00 p.m. Guest speakers will include representatives from Oregon congressional and state legislative offices, as well as Jim Willis, the director of the Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs.

This date also marks the fifth anniversary of when Oregon's legislature approved House Concurrent Resolution 9 that designates July 16 of every year as Oregon Atomic Veterans Day.

The Resolution honors military members who participated in atmospheric nuclear weapons tests in the United States, the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans during and after World War II.

Oregon Atomic Veteran's group organizer Fred Schafer estimates that a few thousand atomic veterans reside in the state. Schafer knows of nearly 300 atomic veterans in Oregon. "Veterans still call me who don't know about our organization or aren't aware that they can now talk about what they'd experienced when they were exposed to radiation while serving in the military," he said. "The more people who know about us the better so we can reach out and help these veterans and their families."

In 1996, atomic veterans were released from their military oaths of secrecy. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) then formally recognized atomic veterans. They were then eligible to receive VA medical treatment.

Testing of the first atomic bomb on July 16, 1945 in Alamogordo, N.M. prompted President Ronald Reagan in 1983 to declare July 16 as National Atomic Veterans Day.

The VHA reports that between 1945 and 1962, approximately 195,000 U.S. service members participated in the post-World War II occupation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan following the atomic bombings there.

Approximately 210,000, mostly military members, are confirmed participants in atmospheric nuclear weapons tests prior to the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty. Others were nuclear technicians responsible for the operation and maintenance of nuclear power plants on aircraft carriers or submarines. More veterans were exposed to depleted uranium munitions during and after the Gulf War.

For more information call Schafer at 541-258-7453 or Frank Farmer, 541-259-1559.

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