National Day of Remembrance honors former Nevada Test Site workers

Former Nevada Test Site workers gathered at the National Atomic Testing Museum this week as part of the National Day of Remembrance.

The event on Monday in Las Vegas was organized by the Denver-based Cold War Patriots, the nation’s first association that connects former nuclear weapons and uranium workers with benefits. Participants held a candlelight ceremony in remembrance of former test site workers that have passed away.

From 1951 through 1992, the U.S. government conducted 928 nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site that’s been renamed the Nevada National Security Site.

Tim Lerew, chairman of the Cold War Patriots, said more than 700,000 people had worked in a nuclear complex around the United States.

“The reading of the names of those who have passed, particularly, maybe it was from a work-related illness, is very special,” Lerew said.

The U.S. Senate adopted a resolution designating Oct. 30 as a national day of remembrance for nuclear weapons program workers.

“We’ve held similar events, not just here in Nevada but throughout the nation, and usually at sites that were important to the nuclear defense industry,” Lerew said.

The event, which highlighted sacrifices made by the test site workers, also brought U.S. Rep, Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, Glenn Podonsky, former program manager at the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. and other dignitaries to the National Atomic Testing Museum.

“There’s an extraordinary camaraderie among the Nevada Test Site workers,” Lerew said. “A can-do, mission-focused attitude, where the importance of the national security was more important than what agency someone worked for, what contractor they were affiliated with. It was to get it done for the nation, and you can feel that spirit today,” Lerew said.

Many of the participants said they came to the event to see fellow workers.

George Horn, of Henderson, who worked in several areas of the test site and Yucca Flats, one of four major nuclear test regions of the test site as an electrician in the 70’s, said he was involved in a couple of underground tests.

Horn, who has been coming to the Cold War Patriots events for the past four years, said he misses the sense of camaraderie among the workers.

“I still get a chance to see the people that I worked with,” Horn said. “When I go to my union hall, we have a retirees’ club and we meet once a month, and I get to see people that I worked with out there.”

John Medlin, of Las Vegas, worked at the test site for one-and-a-half years on tunnel shafts but said it was one of the most interesting jobs he has ever had. His favorite part of the job was the social scene, he said.

“Everybody got together and told a story, the oldtimers and new guys, and then the bus drivers,” Medlin said.

Like many of the former Nevada Test Site workers, Medlin said he came to the event to socialize, and to talk about his days at the test site.

“I enjoy talking about them,” Medlin said about his days at the test site. “If I had to work right now, that would be an awesome place to work, because every day is like an adventure.”

Contact reporter Daria Sokolova at dsokolova@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @dariasokolova77

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