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was something he’ll never forget. “It was as if I were standing before the sun,” he said. But it wasn’t the sun that caused his skin cancer problems. He’s had more than 45 operations, and until 1976, he paid for them himself. “I couldn’t believe the sun could do that to me. Not too many people .get skin cancer on their legs. I can’t even go swimming any more,” he said. The doctors tell him the headaches and the cancer could come without warning, but lately he said he hasn’t had too many problems. Lucas said many of the men who file claims with the VA are merely experiencing the normal problems people go through when they reach 60 years of age. And he said there just weren’t that many atomic vets who had contacted the VA. “You’re talking about a very small group of veterans in this condition,’ he said, “but to those men, this is a very important factor. We want them to come forward, we encourage them to get on the record.” If the men file a claim and research five years later proves their claim valid, Lucas said, the benefits will be retroactive to the date they filed. “Until we get medical evidence,” he cautioned, however, “we can’t pay the men.” The NAAV’s Levin wonders how much medical evidence they need. “It’s a pitiful sight to see these people with one lung, cases of bone cancer,” he said. He said he could explain why more men haven’t come forward. “We’ve seen individuals out there who don’t care to make it known. They feel they’ll be ostracized for it,” he said. He said several prominent businessmen have joined the organization secretly, but they’re afraid if their medical condition becomes known it might cost them their jobs. “A man came in here last week saying he was selling his house to pay the medical bills,” he said. The man was afraid to identify himself and get medical treatment. That treatment, says an aide to Sen. Cranston, wasn’t easy to get. “It took well over a year of pushing and prodding to get them to implement it,” said the aide, who asked that her name not be used. The NAAV is still in its political infancy, though it has a Washington lobbyist. Levin’s problem is getting an office established. If they get enough money, he said, he would like to establish a fund to help those men who are having difficulty. Jim Strickland may have to have spinal column surgery soon, something he says he’s not looking forward to. But, his investment business is doing well and he’s getting treatment, so he says he’s a lot better off than some. “I just wish I.could help them,” he said. “It can’t be that all 300,000 of us stayed out in the sun and soaked up radiation for the hell of it. “1=1 IN THE MIDDLE of the night I have heard my daughter cry. It is a faroff ,cry, too far into the future to be heard right away, and then it comes into the room, and wakes me up, and I listen intently trying to understand the reason behind the wailing sound from the other room. It is my daughter, three-and-a-half months old, and she cries for peace, but like the rest of us, today she is too young, too poor, too inexperienced and too badly situated in the realm of things to make a difference and peace will not come because of her. As much as I want it to, peace will not come because of her. There is a story that has bothered me for days now and I have carried it Ruperto Garcia is a former Observer staff reporter and is now the administrator for the Mexican American Legislative Caucus. within me like so many knots of rope, tightening and churning. I heard it long ago, and yet I don’t remember where. It was in the quietness of a city library, I believe, and a friend leaned over to my side of the table, as if to whisper a secret he wanted no one else to hear. He spoke, if I understood the story right, about young children in the middle of Japan in WWII. They played, he said, all of them together. They would toss coins into a pond, where each of them would take turns retrieving the coins by diving for them. One would swim underwater while the others waited, laughing by the side of the small pond. Whenever one of their turns came, the others would just wait looking into the depths of the pond to watch the boy swimming underwater groping for the sunken coin. One of the children in particular was saved. I guess we should say he was saved. When he dived into the pond, the last thing he must have heard before the water covered his ears must have been the other laughing children. As he groped at the bottom of the pond, in search of the coin \(which was too hard to grasp imbeside the pond looking into the clearness of the water and laughing at the groping boy, the Atomic Bomb dropped over Hiroshima. He must have felt the heat, I have thought. But most of all, he must have felt the shock. When he surfaced, his friends were no longer there. The city he had just seen seconds before had been wiped out. The clothing his friends had worn, at least some of it, was tattered here and there and burned. Civilization as he knew it was gone. He saw the city become horizon and lived to tell about it. His story was whispered to me in some library long ago, if I recall correctly. During the time it took him to hold his breath to grasp a coin, civilization, as he knew it, was gone. I never personally think of war; it is too far away in other places; I am too comfortable here. But in the middle of the night, as I make tea and watch the water boil, it reaches out to touch me. In the United States there is a game going on. Rumors of war have always filled the air. This time, however, the talk has turned into rumors of nuclear war \(and every death around the world in any Night Thoughts By Ruperto Garcia THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15