Monday, February 23, 2009

Thompson awards local man's efforts in health care for veterans

Thompson awards local man's efforts in health care for veterans

Donna Tam/The Times-Standard
Posted: 02/21/2009 01:30:19 AM PST

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Even after he has long retired from the service, veteran Jack Alderson continues to fight for the men who fought with him.

A former member of the United States Navy, Alderson has been working for the last 10 years to ensure that his men and others affected by covert biological and chemical weapons testing done by the Department of Defense during the 1960s and 1970s get the health care they deserve.

Alderson was the commander of a group of light tugboats in the northwest Hawaiian Islands during the testing.

”For him, it's not really about him, it's about the men he still feels responsible for,” Alderson's daughter Sheree Shapiro said Friday after North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson presented her father with a surprise award at the Rotary Club of Southwest Eureka's luncheon. Shapiro said when her father retired about 10 years ago, the cause became his full-time job.

”This guy's a real hero,” Thompson said as he was presenting the award acknowledging Alderson's hard work and dedication.

”We've got a lot more to do and I want you there by my side,” Thompson said before the room gave Alderson a standing ovation. The Rotary Club added to the award by donating $200 to Disabled American Veterans in Alderson's and Thompson's names, adding that they were taking additional donations from any members who wanted to contribute as well.

Thompson said it was only with Alderson's help that he and Congressman Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., were able to introduce the bill that provides health care to veterans subjected, many unknowingly, to biological and chemical weapons tests. Until several years ago the Department of Defense never admitted the tests took place.

The tests were conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs, who now have to assume that the toxins used in the weapons tests of Project 112 -- which included classified military operation Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense, or Project SHAD, in which chemical and biological agents such as VX nerve gas, sarin nerve gas and E. coli were tested with the help of Alderson and his crew -- caused injury to veterans, making them eligible for medical benefits and compensation for their conditions.

A Ferndale resident, Alderson himself has experienced malignant melanoma, prostate cancer and high blood pressure, which he believes were the direct result of Project SHAD.

Shapiro said she is immensely proud of her father who continues to respect his country and government to this day despite what happened to him.

Wearing a tie featuring tiny anchors and the words, “Don't give up the ship,” Alderson accepted the award and said he wants to continue fighting for the rights of all those affected by the covert tests, including the widows of men who have died from ailments linked to the tests.

Alderson said he continues on because of his men and their dedication to their duty and praised Thompson for his willingness to listen and work with him.

”I have so much respect for the Congressman Mike Thompson. We owe him a lot,” Alderson said.

Donna Tam can be reached at 441-0532 or


Congrats Jack and thanks for all you do for your fellow veterans

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