Deny, Deny … Even After They Die

The following is a personal story submitted to Civilian Exposure and published as part of our new series: “Contamination Chronicles: Personal Stories of Exposure”. If you would like to submit your story, you may fill out our form here or send directly via email to [email protected]

My husband passed away on February 9, 2105 from this third battle with cancer. He was a Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune from 1965 through 1969 and served 13 months at Camp Hansen, Okinawa.

He was trained as a heavy equipment mechanic during his service and worked this job on base as well as Camp Hansen. His first cancer we rectal, second cancer was melanoma on the palm of his hand and the third cancer was small cell lung cancer which he perished from. He also was diagnosed with cardiovascular disease and had 10 stents in his body over the course of 15 years.

When we found that the water was contaminated at Lejeune, we applied for help under the conditions that were set forth by the Marine Corps. He was repeatedly denied compensation. He was treated by civilian doctors and the VA over the period of his illnesses. Each cancer was determined to be very rare for a man of his age. Denial of every illness was forthcoming from the VA.

Now I am a widow. I am trying to pursue his compensation as I have nothing left because he could not get any type of insurance to compensate for his illnesses. I know in my heart that this man, my husband of 49 years, was poisoned by the Marine Corps. They denied compensation and waited for him to die, like many other Marines that served their country.

They covered up the risks of what he was exposed to both at Camp Lejeune and at Camp Hansen.

He was exposed to the chemicals and drank the water. While in Okinawa, he was exposed to Agent Orange that covered the equipment coming out of Vietnam. He told me that most of this equipment was covered with vegetation and mud and he once found a live hand grenade in a piece of equipment that the men worked on. This equipment was not washed down in any form prior to being delivered to Camp Hansen.

When the equipment arrived at the base, the men were given a pressure washer to clean this equipment. They were not given any type of protection to shield them from the sprayer that they used to wash off of the contamination on the equipment. The men were covered with the mud and vegetation and this was a daily activity for thirteen months.

I am devastated, tired and have given up as he/we have received denial after denial for the past seven years from the U.S. Marine Corps. They have found every excuse that they can come up with to deny my husband, me and my family any type of compensation. A secret that they refuse to acknowledge that this had anything to do with his exposure to the water, agent orange or any other toxic substance that these men were exposed to during their service.

The latest denial came to me two months after he passed away. He suffered unbelievable hardships, pain and eventually died in my arms with his children surrounding him.


Note from the Editor: The author currently resides in Florida. The account/editorial is verbatim from the author without edit, with only the omission of their name to preserve anonymity.

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Civilian Exposure

Civilian Exposure is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization/public charity working to Build Awareness, Accountability and Assistance for Civilians Exposed to Camp Lejeune Water Contamination and all citizens exposed to any toxic contamination aboard all U.S. military installations. The effort continues to inform civilian employees and others affected by contamination to receive both the guidance and the justice they deserve.

About the Founder
A 20-year veteran of media, marketing, non-profits and entrepreneurship, Gavin P. Smith leads Civilian Exposure, a non-profit assisting civilians and veterans exposed to U.S. military contamination; the Keta Foundation, a collaborative foundation dedicated to mitigating modern slavery through economic improvement projects in Africa; and Gavin Consulting, a network of virtual experts serving global clients; He is also a former member of the CDC/ATSDR Camp Lejeune Community Assistance Panel. Mr. Smith holds a Master of Global Management with distinction (Beta Gamma Sigma) from Thunderbird School of Global Management, an MBA from The College of William & Mary Mason School of Business and a BA in History from Wake Forest University.

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