JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Veterans Day, a time of reflection on the sacrifices made on behalf of our nation's military personnel. Military service encompasses not only the soldier's life but the lives of their families as well.
"Went to the mailbox last week and there were the medals," Burnita Lamberth said.
Those medals marked a lifetime of service.
Years after the late Junious Lamberth retired from the military, his widow Burnita received his medals documenting his valor.
"I was talking to this man and he was in an office in Chicago. He asked me my husband's service number and I gave it to him," Lamberth said.
She will always remember what happened next.
"He took a deep breath and I knew he almost fell out of his chair. He said 'I never seen such a record,'" Lamberth said.
In fact, Junious served in the Navy both in the Atlantic and Pacific.
"Before they got to their battle stations, my husband shot. He was at the heaviest gun on there," Lamberth said.
The German submarine started taking on water, but so did Lamberth's ship. He and other men survived eight days in a raft until they were picked up.
That would not be his most harrowing experience.
Junious was part of Operation Crossroads, the first nuclear test after World War II.
History's fourth and fifth atomic explosions were to examine the effects of nuclear explosions on naval ships, planes, and animals.
But, Burnita says it ultimately would involve humans.
"They'd go aboard those ships after they dropped bombs on them. They'd have to jump off in that lagoon," Lamberth said.
The huge mushroom-like cloud of the second atomic blast made nearby Bikini Island uninhabitable.
"The glare from the atomic bomb put his eyes out. He was blind for quite some time," Lamberth said.
Fortunately his sight came back, but eventually, he became permanently blind in one eye.
But the worst was yet to come.
"I had a miscarriage, and then it was a deformed child," Lamberth said. "They waited 40 years to the day to let us know what it was."
The radioactivity that could affect generations. A form asked how many of her children had a list of birth defects.
Despite all of this, Lambert's sons and grandsons also chose to serve their country.
Junious Lamberth died at the age of 68.
He served his country for 22 years and 22 days.
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