FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 14, 2017
Contact: Representative Ron Tusler (608) 266-5831
Wisconsin Honors Atomic Veterans
Legislature Proclaimed July 16, 2017 as Atomic Veterans Day in Wisconsin
Buchanan, WI – Sunday, July 16, 2017, is National Atomic Veterans Day in Wisconsin. Representative Ron Tusler (R – Harrison) led the effort in the state legislature to honors these veterans. An “Atomic Veteran” is a veteran who participated in nuclear weapons tests between 1945 and 1962 and other situations where military personnel were exposed to radiation. At least 220,000 American service men and women witnessed and participated in these tests, or served in forces occupying Hiroshima and Nagasaki immediately following World War II.
“This Sunday, July 16, serves as a reminder for an often forgotten group of veterans, Atomic Veterans, who vowed to keep the details of their service to their county secret, even from their doctors,” said Rep. Tusler. “When my constituent, Jerome Gehl, an Atomic Veteran himself, wrote to me, I knew I had to do something.”
Jerome Gehl, a resident of Buchanan and native of Forest Junction, wrote to Rep. Tusler in May and told him about Atomic Veterans. Gehl enlisted in the Army when he was 17 years old and served from 1956 to 1959. He was a member of the 1st Provisional Military Police Company and assigned to the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project. His company guarded sensitive sites integral to the United States’ nuclear weapons program in the Cold War. In 1956 Gehl was stationed at Bikini Atoll, the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean, during a series of 35 atomic bomb tests.
Military personnel, like Gehl, who participated in these activities were sworn to secrecy. Congress rescinded the secrecy agreement in 1996 so these veterans could seek medical care for their radiation exposure. Unfortunately, many Atomic Veterans passed away before the secrecy order was rescinded and were unable to receive medical treatment.
“I want to thank Atomic Veterans for their service and sacrifice, and raise awareness for those Atomic Veterans, and their families, who can still seek treatment and compensation,” said Rep. Tusler.
Veterans who think they may be an Atomic Veteran can find information about medical care and for individuals or family members of those who contracted certain illnesses due to their exposure to atmospheric nuclear testing or uranium industry employment by visiting the Department of Veterans Affairs’ website and Department of Justice’s website.
A video chronicling Mr. Ghel’s story and raising awareness about Atomic Veterans can be found on Rep. Tusler’s Facebook page.