We are but a few of the Survivors of the 1977-1980 Enewetak Atoll Atomic Debris Cleanup Mission in the Marshall Islands.
Our main focus is to help each other with information and moral support during challenging times.
Our secondary focus is to urge Congress to change the current laws and recognize soldiers of the atomic cleanup mission as “veterans who participated in radiation-risk activities during active service.”
Remembering Lojwa Animal – Richard “Brooklyn Ball Buster” Masculine – by Gary Pulis
His handle fit him with his gift for sarcasm and his heavy Brooklyn accent. You knew someone was about to get their balls busted if he opened his mouth. Don’t get me wrong, Ball Buster wasn’t mean he did have a natural situational comedic ability that he exploited at every opportunity.
Ball Buster was one of, if not the, first “Short Timer” to take me under his wing. We worked on some of the same islands, breathed some of the same dust and drank from the same “Jungle Juice” barrel. I lost track of him when he left to go back to his regular unit. Thirty plus years later I ran into him on line. We got to chatting along with Frank Bolton, who had also served on the Atoll. With all the information Richard had to share about filing a claim with the VA. We thought it best to start a closed facebook group where we could talk about our many health issues without having to explain each post to our family and friends. Richard had been researching the effects of radiation we were exposed to and had a laundry list of illnesses that were connected to our exposure, though the VA continues to deny we were exposed to any material that would affect our health. Shortly after starting our Enewetak group Ball Buster disclosed he had a few different types of cancer, one of which caused him to have half his tongue removed. He also told us some of the cancers had come back. Ball Buster continued to put up a brave front stating he had beaten cancer before and would again. We lost Ball Buster on November 25, 2013. The news of his loss shook all of us in the group at that time. Several of us exchanged private messages expressing our feelings of sorrow and coming to grips with our own mortality. I’m sure others were in tears, as I was. I’m not sure words can express the feelings we had having lost a brother 34 years AFTER returning to the world.
It is tough knowing we were exposed to materials that can take so many years to cause health issues and take a life in such a short period of time after the illnesses appear.
For me, the passing of Ball Buster meant I had lost my chance to exchange more memories with a brother from years gone by.
We urge our supporters to encourage their politicians to create legislation which will include all Marshall Island Atomic Cleanup Veterans in the U.S. Government Veterans Administration’s definition of a veteran “who participated in radiation-risk activities during active service.”
Article written by Gary Pulis 1979 atomic cleanup participant with B Company, 84th Engineer Battalion (Combat Heavy) (Fwd) (Fwd) Lojwa Island, Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands.