It’s my Friday off and I’m at Flying Star for breakfast. I decided this would be a good time to study the paperwork I received from the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Radiation Exposure Compensation Act department for my claim on my father’s behalf. He was a Navy officer and an atomic veteran who passed away from cancer in 1976.

Daddy was in the Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps and he was attached to the task-force for the atomic bomb tests called Operation Crossroads at the Bikini Atoll in 1946. He and his Seabees built structures on the islands. A favorite cocktail party tale of his had to do with building an “officer’s club” on the atoll. The admiral asked when they’d be toasting the success of the test and Daddy promised to be pouring scotch within 24 hours of the blast. I’m afraid he did.

The June issue of the AARP Bulletin had an article about a woman who received compensation for her late father’s exposure to radiation during atmospheric nuclear tests in the 1950s. I knew that my father’s cancer might be the result of his exposure at Bikini, but this was the first indication I had that the government acknowledged its role in the illnesses and deaths of vets and civilian workers exposed to ionizing radiation.

The DTRA and DOJ paperwork is, as you might expect, overwhelming. Nothing as simple as: was he there, did he die of cancer, are you his heir? Actually, those are the questions, but proving the answers is going to require that I ferret out his Navy serial number, unit assignment during Operation Crossroads, medical records (including diagnostic tests and pathology reports, physician & hospital records), my parents’ birth and death certificates, their marriage license, my half-sister’s birth and death certificates, and my birth certificate and copies of my marriage licenses and divorce decrees. It’s a good thing I’m a crackerjack researcher.

If I succeed with my search, and the DOJ and DTRA agree that Daddy’s exposure and cancer are qualifying events, I will get a nice windfall. Not really compensation for his death at age 63, though, to him or my mother or me.