Kansas Veteran Pushes to Honor Atomic Vets

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As we remember those who served our country this Veterans Day, there are some veterans whose service has seldom been acknowledged.

Gary Thornton is one of America's 'Atomic' Veterans. He and others have been working for years to get these atomic veterans recognition for their service. It's been a difficult battle because of government secrecy but slowly, slowly there work may be paying off.

"The world was given another frightening glimpse of the atomic 'hell' of a nuclear explosion," Thornton says.

"We've practically all died off and still no honor or recognition for the service of our country. This is a national shame as far as I'm concerned."

Leon, Kansas Resident Gary Thornton is retired from the military.
He was one of thousands of veterans who participated in nuclear testing.

"Thousands of these atomic veterans are dying off. They lay sick in bed with multiple cancers. They spent years and years of their lives with painful illnesses, cancer, heart disease, joint and bone replacement and they've never been rewarded for their service time as atomic veterans."

Navy Veteran Gary Thornton witnessed eight of these atomic tests in the early 60's…and he says he is one of the lucky ones.

"Let's get these old veterans recognized, get the honor and dignity that they deserve before they are all gone."

This was his ship and while in the Navy he handled plutonium along with contaminated debris but according to the VA was found to be healthy…at least then.

"The cancer's caused by ionized radiation can affect you anywhere, anytime, and in a multiple of ways."

Most of the veterans received their radiation between 1945 and1963.
Their service was never acknowledged because of the Atomic Secrets act.

Now, that act has run its course and the veterans are looking for recognition - not money, just acknowledgement that they served and served honorably.

"And I think it is time to bring them out of the darkness and reward them for their services to our country."

Two bills now making their way through congress to provide that recognition. House Bill 3471 and Senate bill 2218 both now before congress would provide that acknowledgement.

"All that they have contributed to this country and countless thousands of them have died off with no recognition or honor and to me it is a national disgrace."

Gary Thornton and the other atomic veterans hope soon their letter writing campaigns and their appeals to congress will result in forever memorializing the men and woman who suffered for years in silence. A silence that is now finally broken.

"Now we're asking for people to help before it is too late and we're all gone."

He urges Kansans to write their congressman to support the bills pending in congress that would finally give official recognition and honor all atomic veterans.


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