- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

The Red Hat Mission was declassified in 1991. The shipments of 55 gallon drums were being shipped to Johnston Atoll from Okinawa. Some of these containers spilled over on the shipments exposing the soldiers and most will never know what caused their illnesses.

Not only were the soldiers exposed to Agent Orange, but they were also exposed to radiation poisoning from several nuclear explosions including the spraying of chemicals. The Army sent over 247 Soldiers in the Red Hat Mission in July 1971, 55 have died from the ages of 48 to 62 years old, 22 in one year.

The Defense Department failed to inform of the plutonium stored just 300 yards from the barracks that also included the saturation of asbestos within the confines.

These soldiers were given physicals in July 1971, and there was no follow-up after the mission nor has there been any follow-up to the current date as to their exposure?

A Survivor of Johnston Atoll

Dear Survivor:

Thanks for your missive regarding the health concerns for you and your buddies associated with your service in the Pacific. I urge the VA, Department of Defense, and the appropriate House and Senate committees to investigate your allegations.

Dear Sgt Shaft:

I work on the PBS National Memorial Day Concert that, for more than two decades, has been a memorial service for our nation. Every year, the program features poignant stories (presented by celebrated actors) of real people who have lost their lives or been wounded in America’s conflicts and delves into the impact these tragedies have had on their families. These segments are punctuated by powerful performances from acclaimed musical artists.

The 2011 concert is no exception.

Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna return to co-host the concert for the sixth consecutive year and are joined by distinguished American leader Colin L. Powell (Ret.); American Idol winner Kris Allen; Academy and Emmy Award-winning actors Forest Whitaker and Dianne Wiest; King of the Blues B.B. King; classical superstar Hayley Westenra; America’s beloved tenor Daniel Rodriguez, the New York city policeman who united the country after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks (and additional talent to be named soon).

Personally, I am very moved by the story of a woman, Michelle Baugh whose father was killed in Vietnam shortly after she was born. She struggled for years to learn about the father she never met and returned to Vietnam with a vet, who was with her father when he died, to follow in his footsteps. I thought this might make an excellent item for your column.

Additional segments will include:

• The first national welcome home to our troops who have been serving in Iraq.
• A 10-year commemoration of Sept. 11.
• A tribute to our World War II veterans 70 years after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Story Continues →