Best Small Town Crusade

In tiny Emmett, Idaho, a band of citizens are speaking up. And insisting that the government listen.

from Reader's Digest Magazine | May 2005



By the time Sheri Garmon walked to the microphone, nearly 250 people from Idaho and beyond had gathered in the park of the small town. TV and newspaper reporters crowded the front. Elected officials were there, too, from one of the state’s U.S. Senators on down to county commissioners.

“Raise your hand,” said Garmon, addressing the crowd, “if you or one of your neighbors or relatives has cancer.” A blur of hands shot up. “Now raise two hands if you know two people.” More hands. “If you know more than two, stand up.” One by one, people began getting to their feet, turning their heads to look at their neighbors in disbelief. Half the audience was standing.

Tona Henderson felt tears roll down her cheeks. Even the U.S. Senator, Mike Crapo, looked shaken.

“We’re the people raised in Idaho that were sacrificed 50 years ago during the Cold War,” Garmon said. “Don’t let us be treated as expendable.”

That day, 20 people traipsed to the microphone to tell their stories, garnering headlines all over the state. Crapo, who has prostate cancer himself, a brother who died of leukemia and a sister with breast cancer, said he would fight to gain compensation for Idahoans. Two months later, representatives of the NAS came to Boise to take testimony in a public hearing that lasted nearly eight hours.

In the fall of 2004, the NAS made its report to Congress in order to decide whether Idaho should be included in the compensation program. Unfortunately, Sheri passed before learning the outcome of the movement she started, but, her efforts paid off and in 2005, the legislation was approved. Idaho is now included in the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA).

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