Marshallese, atomic cleanup veterans reunite
Nuclear Remembrance Day Springdale Arkansas and the Marshall Island
In the 1970s, the U.S. began a cleanup of the Marshall Islands by over 8,000 military workers and civilians. he Dome, known as Runit Dome or 'The Tomb' by locals, contains 110,000 cubic yards of radioactive soil and debris. Most islands on the atoll have been indefinitely quarantined.
Marshallese have immigrated to Arkansas, earning Springdale the nickname of "The Atolls of Arkansas."
The weekend event includes a full slate of guest speakers, authors, dignitaries and filmmakers, as well as the creation of a time capsule, and a reunion featuring authentic Marshallese food and culture. The Marshallese will present individual certifications of appreciation for humanitarian efforts to the veterans. The Nuclear Remembrance Day marks the 'Castle Bravo' H-bomb test, the largest nuclear bomb ever tested by the U.S. on March 1, 1954. The Nuclear Remembrance Day also coincides with the 40th anniversary of the end of the cleanup efforts and the construction of the Runit Dome, which was deemed completed on March 1, 1980.
One of the event organizers is Paul Griego, State Commander of the New Mexico Chapter of the National Association of Atomic Veterans (NAAV). In 1978, at age 20, Griego worked in the islands collecting radioactive soil samples and served as a radio chemist. In his particular team of eight workers, he is the only known survivor and like many others who were involved in the cleanup, has dealt with health issues since.
The veterans, who were then teenagers and young men, keep in contact with each other and the Marshallese through Facebook, emails and telephone calls but most haven't met again face to face since the 1970s.
"I feel it's going to be an emotional thing (to reunite), because of why we were there in the first place for the Marshallese people," Griego said. "It's heartwarming to receive recognition from the Marshallese for our service in a way that our own country has not."
The Marshall Islands were the Pacific Proving Grounds for U.S. Nuclear weapon, biological weapon, and space rocket and missile testing.
National Association of Atomic Veterans