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 share-@-civilianexposure.org.
My husband died four years ago on February 10, 2015. He was a Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune in the late 60s. Myself and our 6-month old daughter joined him there for four months before he was shipped out to Okinawa. He was a heavy duty mechanic and worked on the base.
While he was at Okinawa, he continued his work on heavy equipment that was coming out of the jungles of Viet Nam. He served thirteen months on Okinawa and returned to Lejeune where he spent the remainder of his service. After his honorable discharge from the Marine Corps, we settled into normal life. But little did we know that over the next 25 years, he would experience three rare cancers and cardiovascular disease.
We discovered that his illnesses may be associated with his service when we saw a short article on a news channel in 2000. This in when we went to the VA and filed for compensation. We had some help in filling out the multitude of paperwork that is required along with all of his military and civilian health records. The VA lost his first application. We submitted a second application, then a third application with additional information. This went on for almost 15 years!
During this time, his health got progressively worse. His last cancer was terminal and he passed away in February of 2015. Six months after he passed away, I received a notice of a hearing that I must attend at the VA near where I lived in St. Petersburg, FL. I prepared everything I had to attend this hearing, including all of the paperwork that we accumulated since 2001. Two weeks before the hearing, I received a letter stating that the hearing had been moved to another state and that I would have to attend or the case would be closed.
I could not believe that the VA would do this to me. I lost my husband of 49 years of marriage and they wanted me to fly to Arkansas or Alabama, (I can’t remember which state), from Florida to get my hearing. I was devastated. I did not have the funds to do this and I was still reeling over the loss of my beloved husband.
This is when I gave up fighting. Exactly what the VA intended.
I previously posted my story in greater detail of our/my struggle on Civilian Exposure and it has given me a venue to vent for what I consider criminal. All I can tell the victims of this horrible injustice is keep fighting for yourself and loved ones. I am 70 years old now and I am tired.
I hope and pray that our brave soldiers and civilian victims will soon be compensated for their service and in many cases, their lives.
Note from the Editor: The author currently resides in Spring Hill, Florida. The account/editorial is verbatim from the author without edit, with only the omission of their name to preserve anonymity.