My name is Dr. Roberto (Rob) Calderon, and I served in the 564th Missile Squadron at Malmstrom AFB from 1995-1998. In 2000 at the age of 28, I was one of the first from my year group to be diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I along with two of my good buddies were diagnosed with lymphoma within one year of each other.
After speaking with my friends about our cancer diagnoses, I decided to send an email to my old squadron mates to inform them about our situation. I was told (but cannot confirm whether this occurred) that when the 20th AF commander got wind of my email, he ordered the missile force not to forward it. At the time of my diagnosis, I was in medical school and asked the Air Force to put me back on active duty to receive treatment. Unfortunately, they declined.
At the worst moment of my life, I felt completely abandoned by the Air Force. The subsequent chemo and radiation treatments meant having to take a year off medical school, and eventually, I went into remission. Unfortunately, as a medical student, I was unable to afford the required cancer treatments and ended up in collections with several debt collection agencies. One of my dear friends who had been diagnosed around the same time as me, died during his cancer treatment. While my credit was destroyed for several years, I ultimately consider myself the lucky one.
*Rob’s story is vital in the missile community. He is the catalyst that drove the 2003 AFSPC/SG memo to consider looking outside of the 564 MS, to look at the missileers who served at bases other than Malmstrom, and now, to develop a registry. His was the initial voice raised with missile, medical, and cancer experience to send up a flag. You can find a full list of resources, including Dr. Calderon’s memo on our Resources Page.