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Former SRS workers honored as Cold War Patriots

October 24, 2016

October 24, 2016

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News & Events

By James Folker | Staff Writer

Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016

Terrell Roberts worked at Savannah River Site from 1954 until 1991. He was exposed to plutonium in 1956, and doctors still find it in his bones and liver. Later, he was overexposed to tritium, and now he has chronic kidney disease.

“The doctor told him he should have died 20 years ago,” said his wife, Eloise, who worked at SRS from 1979 until 1985 and has health problems of her own.

But despite all he’s been through, Terrell is still going strong at 83 years old.

“The kids say what’s inside him is the Energizer Bunny,” Eloise said, laughing.

Terrell and Eloise were “two of the first” to file claims in 2001 for medical benefits under the newly enacted Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act, which pays for care for qualifying former nuclear workers.

The couple joined about 100 other former nuclear workers and family members Friday at a reception to honor them “as heroes who gave their lives and health” for their country and to make sure they had information on the compensation.

The event was put on by Cold War Patriots, a group whose mission “is to connect our members with the information, resources and people necessary to help them with their individual situations.”

The act has helped thousands of workers, said Tim Lerew, Cold War Patriots chairman.

During Friday’s program, survivors of deceased SRS workers were recognized and U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, who also worked at SRS, talked about the importance of defense nuclear work in bringing about the fall of the Soviet Union.

“You provided deterrence. In Ronald Reagan’s peace through strength plan, you were the strength,” he said. “You liberated countries whose people live in freedom and democracy, thanks to you.”

He singled out Bulgaria, which he has visited several times, going back to when the Cold War was at its hottest. Under communism, what Bulgarians called cars were basically motorcycles with covers, he said. Now they enjoy the conveniences of modern life, including Starbucks and Burger King.

“They have opportunities they would never have had, because of your work,” he said. “They were at war with us for decades, but now they’re our allies.”

He noted that the Republic of Georgia today has the second-most troops in Afghanistan, helping Americans.

In 2009, the U.S. Senate declared Oct. 30 as a National Day of Remembrance for nuclear weapons program workers. This year, the eighth observance, events are scheduled across the country.

Terrell Roberts worked at Savannah River Site for 37 years, and his wife of 64 years, Eloise Roberts, worked there for six years.

They attended Friday’s Cold War Patriots’ National Day of Remembrance Reception.

The guests and their families grab some snacks during Friday’s reception.

Organizers provided them with information about a occupational illness compensation program for former nuclear workers.