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Veteran's Day Program highlights chemical weapons testing during The Cold War

It was a packed house this morning at the Adorni Center with people from every branch of service, all in attendance for the same reason. It was the Annual Veteran’s Day Program put on by the Rotary Club of Southwest Eureka.

“This is the biggest crowd I think we’ve ever had,” Master of Ceremonies John Moore said.

This year’s keynote speaker was Jack Alderson. He was a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy who served during The Cold War.

"Jack is a member of our Rotary Club,” Moore said. “We were familiar with Jack's story and it was important at this point for people to hear some of the things that we've done in the past."

Alderson addressed the crowd of roughly 500 about chemical weapons testing during The Cold War. It’s a topic that’s been classified until just recently.

"It’s nice to finally be able to talk about it,” Alderson said. “It was a hell of an adventure."

The tests were known as Project 112/SHAD, which exposed around 6,000 service members, without their knowledge, to harmful chemical and biological weapons from 1962 to 1974. It wasn’t until 2002 that the Department Of Defense revealed what had been done. Alderson commanded some of the ships used in the project’s experiment and now he’s dealing with medical issues. Alderson has been diagnosed with malignant Melanoma, several types of skin cancers and prostate cancer.

"What I really hope more than anything else, if our country ever decides to do this kind of testing again that they follow the rules," Alderson said.

His speech brought the crowd to a standing ovation. 

"I hope, maybe above all— a refresher in their minds that the sacrifices the men and woman perform who serve in the armed forces," Moore said.