Behind the rubble of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was a glimpse of bravery by a group of men driven by a sense of responsibility for the next generation.

Yastel Yamada was sitting at home watching news footage of young men clearing the rubble left behind at the Fukushima power plant after the earthquake and subsequent tsunami caused the three nuclear reactors to melt down. Months after the historical events, radiation continued to spill into the ocean and air. Yastel was moved by the men continuing to risk their lives by venturing into areas with high amounts of radiation in order to continue the cleanup efforts.

From there he organized the Skilled Veterans Corps., a group of retired men who have volunteered to help with the radioactive cleanup of the Fukushima plant. The group consists of retired engineers, power station workers, teachers, cooks, and a singer. All over the age of 60, these brave men decided that it should be their responsibility to take on the jobs that have a higher risk of radiation contamination instead of the younger workers with their whole lives in front of them.

“I don’t think I’m particularly special… Most Japanese have this feeling in their heart. The question is whether you step forward, or you stay behind and watch… To take that step you need a lot of guts, but I hope it will be a great experience. Most Japanese want to help out any way they can.”

  Michio Ito, retired teacher

Having inspired now close to 300 retired men to volunteer their services, Yamada jokes that, by the time they would get cancer from the radiation, they will already be in their graves from old age. Sometimes the courageous act is to just step forward.