Matt Capalby grew up in Kingman among hard-working, stoic, patriot people who, he told me, “are not the type who complain, or who would camp out on the steps of the Capitol and yell.”

Even if their own government was killing them. Which … it was.

In the post-World War II and Cold War days, the good folks of Mohave County found themselves downwind of the many nuclear bomb tests in Nevada. Essentially, the United States unthinkingly waged war on its own citizens.

“We had an entire generation of people just decimated by the radiation exposure,” Capalby said. “And they just took it, quietly.”

Original compensation act was inadequate

In 1990, Congress passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), which was meant to provide some financial assistance to Americans exposed to radiation.

The original bill is set to expire this year.

It was extremely limited, however, so the Senate a few months back passed a new version, one that includes Mohave County, Clark County, Nev., New Mexico and other affected regions, including uranium miners and people in the St. Louis area who were exposed to contaminated water from uranium production at Mallinckrodt Chemical Works.

Helping these individuals is actually something Democrats and Republicans in Congress agree on. It’s a way of coming to the aid of Americans who have suffered unnecessarily in the name of national security.

Still, the legislation must make it through the House.

Polar opposites agree to help Mohave County

After the bill passed the Senate, a bipartisan group of lawmakers that included Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly and Reps. Greg Stanton, Rau´l Grijalva and Ruben Gallego, sent a letter to House Speaker Mike Johnson that read in part, “This critical legislation is critical to the communities and individuals historically marginalized and left suffering from the consequences of the United States’ nuclear testing program.”

U.S. owes:Arizona's 'downwinders' exposed to radiation

“We’re hopeful, but it has been a long fight to try to get something done,” Capalby said. “There are two congressmen in Arizona who have really pushed this. And that is Paul Gosar and Greg Stanton. They have done a terrific job of keeping this issue alive.”

Imagine that, politicians on completely opposite sides of just about everything, working together.

Radiation exposure has taken a generation

Capably recalls how his grandfather, a doctor from the 1930s to the 1970s in the downwind zone, treated dozens of childhood cancer cases in communities that statistically should have very, very few. If any.

“I’ve been at this for a long time, and I’ve been vocal,” Capably said. “That isn’t the way, generally, in Mohave County. But generations of people here have paid for our national security.”

During his years advocating for those impacted by nuclear fallout, Capably served on the board of a group called Downwinders of Mohave County.

He is the only surviving board member.