Atomic Duty

of Richard "Mac" or "Dick" MacDonald

Operation Castle 1954

Richard "Dick" MacDonald married Deanna who became Mrs. MacDonald and his life long companion and friend. She lived his past with him again and then, wrote her heart out.

These are the poems she left with me to explain how grief visited her every day. Some of the men felt it so deeply that they couldn't find a way to express it in words. Their wives sometimes step up and tell their tales. Mac's is one such case. He could talk about it once in a while, but the most fearful thoughts were not shared with others. It took most of his life time to tell what he experienced. What he did in life, she told on paper.

She wrote these poems to tell the tale of her husband, their love and their journey together. Cast adrift by their government, they sailed through salty and rough seas through the times of the Cold War. Nearly a decade later, Alma Haus Press presents their Cold War Love Story expressed in Deanna's four poems.

Photo by Bridget Smith, Tigard American Legion Hall, October 16, 2006 meeting.
Mac stands to talk while Dea sits in pondering mode seated at his side.


It sits there heavy and hard
Shutting out all around me
My mind in its iron grip

The "Unseen Foe" rears its ugly head
Again and again it strikes a blow
Gnawing away at my man, my world

Numbness engulfs me
Unable to rage or dissolve into tears
I dare not think, what next
The thought is too much to entertain

His is a battle of the body
Mine a battle of the mind and spirit
I will survive for I must
He needs a rock to stand on

I run away where the "Unseen Foe"
Cannot follow us.
I run to the world of pretense
Dragging hope with me.


Mind and heart scream NO!
NO, not again, not to him!
Fear, anguish, and the roller coaster of hope and despair
engulf my every conscious thought
The "Unseen Foe" is back!

Intense anger flares.
Who? What?
There must be someone,
something to blame
Waiting, not knowing is hell.

Wait I must, to learn where
the battle-lines will be drawn
Wait, to develop a plan of attack
The battle has been fought
twice before, and won.

So, I will fight to my last breath
knowing the "Unseen Foe" will settle for
nothing less than complete victory
And, that is unacceptable.


The battle rages on and on and on
Slipping, sliding, struggling endlessly
The battle field strewn with pitfalls
Is the end an illusion?

Blindly we grope through the valley of despair
We dig deep into the medical arsenal
A barrage of questions
There are no answers.

Side by side we face the foes
Sharing each fear and triumph
Trying desperately to believe
We hide behind a wall of humor

The clock ticks
The sun rises and sets
Heavily we lean on our reserves
Words of encouragement, hugs and prayers.


He signed on the line
Vowed to do his duty
For all he loved and held dear

And sworn to secrecy
He sailed into unknown waters
Cleared for special assignment

Six times he witnessed
The indescribable power
Sight and sound of Hydrogen bombs

The price of duty:
Radiation exposure
Which slowly wreaked havoc.

Still we are luckier than others
Some with devastating illnesses
Themselves, children and grandchildren

We will endure the bad times
Thankful for the advances in medicine;
Grateful for the many good years.

Atomic Veterans, Atomic Test Series and Dates

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