Deborah Derrick
Deborah Derrick

Green Mountain Global Forum will host Deborah Derrick, author of Half Lives, the True Story of an Atomic Waste Dumping Ship, a Government Cover-up, and the Veteran Families shaped by it all. Derrick, who has family ties to the Mad River Valley, will share stories from Half Lives, shed light on a history that few are aware of, and highlight the present day fight for justice for these veterans and their families.

Fifteen years ago, while working as a legislative aide on Capitol Hill, Deborah Derrick helped handle an egregious case of a man who served on board a navy ship that dumped atomic waste off the coast of Manhattan in the late 1950's. He and his family had been pursuing a VA claim for 18 years. All five of his children were born with birth defects and died of a radiation-associated cancer. With help from Derrick and the office of Representative David Skaggs, the veteran's family finally won their case.

The story stuck with Derrick. Years later, when her husband's career took him overseas, she decided to write a book about it: Half Lives, the True Story of an Atomic Waste Dumping Ship. For four years, she conducted research on the USS Calhoun County, a low-ranking navy waste dumping ship. She dug up deck logs and tracked down veterans. She interviewed more than a hundred sailors, officers, health physicists, and VA officials.

Derrick discovered the story of a veteran who came from a brutal family and carried his demons with him into the navy; a contaminated ship that the navy operated for years, with more than 70 sailors living, eating and sleeping aboard; and a true-blue Commanding Officer who was trying to protect his men and the navy from exposure. She also uncovered the decades-long effort by the U.S. military to evade and deny radiation claims from veterans.

Deborah Derrick is a U.S. government expert. She has a master's degree in public policy from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School and extensive professional experience in Washington DC. She's spent twenty years working on and around Capitol Hill, including seven years as a professional legislative aid, two years as a senior legislative advisor for the U.S. State Department, three years as Executive Director of the Better World Campaign, and four years as a senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Derrick currently serves as President of Friends of the Global Fight, a bipartisan organization that seeks to keep the United States government invested in the fights against AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

The presentation will be followed by a Q&A with the author, and a book signing. Copies of Half Lives will be available for sale in the lobby of the Big Picture. This event is free and the public is welcome.

Half Lives Poster

Venue: The Big Picture, 7 p.m. start. This is a free event and open to the public.