My Mother Carried Me Full Term While Drinking, Cooking and Bathing in Lejeune Toxic Water

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 father was stationed at Camp Lejeune, in Tarawa Terrace. I was conceived and my mother carried me full term while drinking, cooking and bathing in the toxic water.  My mother and older brother went to Delaware to stay with her parents for Christmas holidays and remained there until after I was born as my father was on training missions.  I was born in Wilmington, Delaware in January, 1960.  We returned to base in early February and lived the first year of my life on Camp Lejeune in Tarawa Terrace.

I had many illnesses growing up, along with a weak autoimmune system.  I am not sure if the water damaged my DNA cells, but I do know the toxins in the water damaged my autoimmune system and impacted the way that my body functioned.  I believe my issues would fall under neurobehavioral effects.

I was diagnosed at Camp Pendleton with multiple medical conditions, including seizure disorder and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. I was treated, but have continued to struggle most of my life. I still suffer from migraine headaches, confusion, and disorientation. I have been having problems with my vision since 2008 and have seen many specialists. I feel that the migraines and the intense pain I feel in my head affects my vision. I go every year to the eye doctor and my vision changes. Sometimes it gets worse and sometimes it gets better.  Because this is such a broad area for interpretation, it is easy for the reviewers to deny me over and over again. I truly believe I was born damaged by the toxins in the water and as a fetus and did not develop properly in vitro.

In 2014, my condition became so bad that I was unable to work or function. I am medically disabled,  but my conditions have not been approved by the VA as a Lejeune family member. I still have copies of all my medical records from the early 1970’s from Camp Pendleton Naval Hospital, but my conditions are not exact matches to what is listed. I was one of six children – one born before me and four born after me. I am the only one suffering poor health, severe migraines, joint pain, etc.

I am frustrated and angry at the military for allowing me to suffer for over 50 years of my life. To this day, they refuse me the small amount of benefits that would be available to me as a family member.


Note from the Editor: The author currently resides in North Carolina. 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 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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