Marine Who Won VA Coverage for Camp LeJeune Water Dies

Photo courtesy: The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten web site.

Photo courtesy: The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten web site.

A Marine who challenged and finally won his VA disability claim that his breast cancer was linked to Camp Lejeune contaminated water died just months after winning his claim according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Tom Gervasi, a veteran who won his protracted disability claim fight with the government over the rare cancer he contracted during his service, died Tuesday at home in Sarasota.

He was 77.

While serving in the Marines at Camp Lejeune, N.C., in 1956, Gervasi was exposed to contaminated water that caused breast cancer, which rarely affects men. For the last decade, he fought with the government over medical coverage for him and other veterans.

After repeated denials, he finally received a letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs in April confirming that the contaminated water had in fact caused his cancer.

Read the full Sarasota Herald-Tribune article here.

In March, the VA started reaching out to former Marines and families who lived at Lejeune during the period of contamination. Details on eligibility and a list of illnesses covered by the VA such as breast cancer, bladder cancer and female infertility are available here.

If you served at Camp Lejeune during the period of contamination, August 1953 through 1987, and have health problems, you may be eligible for VA benefits. Details are available here.

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VA Reachs Out to Camp Lejeune Marines and Families

Photo courtesy: The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten web site.

Photo courtesy: The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten web site.

The VA is trying to connect with Marines and their families who may have been exposed to polluted drinking water while serving at the U.S. Marine Corps Base at Camp Lejeune.

The drinking water was contaminated with industrial solvents, benzene, and other chemicals and families living there between the period of January 1, 1957 and December 31, 1987 may have exposed.

Co-Chair of the VA Camp Lejeune Task Force, Terry J. Walters, wrote a recent entry in the VA blog, VAntage Point, detailing eligibility plus the medical conditions and illnesses that are covered.

  • Bladder cancer
  • Miscarriage
  • Breast cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Female infertility
  • Neurobehavioral effects
  • Hepatic steatosis
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Kidney cancer
  • Renal toxicity
  • Leukemia
  • Scleroderma
  • Lung Cancer

Walters writes that veterans already enrolled in VA health care can contact their local VA medical facility to receive care under Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012. Veterans not enrolled may apply for VA health care benefits by completing VA form online, by calling toll-free 1-877-222-8387 or in person at their local VA medical care facility.

Three other resources for the Camp Lejeune water contamination:

  1. The VA Camp Lejeune water contamination website
  2. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry website.
  3. The US Marine Corps FAQ information site

What Military Family Bloggers Wants Civilians to Know

Off the Base contributor Jackie Dorr shared this blog entry from the Army – Air Force Exchange Service blog.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Gen. Joseph Dunford stand during the national anthem during a military community event at Memorial Field House at Camp Lejeune, N.C., April 13, 2011. The First Lady and Dr. Biden spoke to 3,000 Marines, soldiers, sailors, and military family members from Camp Lejeune, one of the country's largest Marine Corps bases. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

by Mary A, Exchange Guest Blogger, Military Veteran and Spouse

Recently Michelle Obama was in Hollywood talking to producers and directors about bringing the military family into homes across America.  That makes me wonder, what part will Hollywood show?

Will they pay attention only to the Wounded Warriors and their families?  They definitely deserve all of the recognition that they and their families are getting.  Or will they pay attention to only those whose service members who are deployed?  It is a huge burden on most families, especially if they have no support system around them.  But only paying attention to those two leaves out a significant number of the rest who live their daily lives with a family member who is serving in the Armed Forces.  What will they show for the rest?  Our struggle to make new friends each time we move, our struggle with moving every three years, our struggle with dealing with a new language/culture every few years, our trying to get a new job, leaving all that we accomplished behind?  What will they show?
I think the bigger question is what we, as military family members, want civilians to know about us.  I think the biggest thing is that we want them to realize that we are just like them, but with a different perspective on life.  When our spouse tells us they have to go away for work, we are thrilled if it is only for one month.  When we watch the news about troops going to war, we don’t look on it for a moment and then forget as soon as the anchor goes to the next story, we feel it in our heart, knowing that our spouse is next.  When our child has a birthday we plan on our spouses not being there and are pleasantly surprised when they can show up.

To read the full blog entry click HERE.

SSG Brian Dorr holds his daughter, Paisley, and his wife, Jackie, holds daughter, Anastin.

Jackie Dorr shared what she hoped civilians would understand about military families in her first blog entry for Off the Base. Here’s a portion of that:

I realize there are so many people out there that are clueless as to what our lifestyle is.  My husband, Brian, and I got married on Veterans Day. He was a PFC (Private First Class) and had been in the Army for almost three years.  I am a military brat. So, I felt confident I was prepared for the road ahead.

Fast forward five years, two kids and four deployments later!  I have slept alone more often than I have next to my love.  We calculated it once and the ratio worked out that Brian had actually been deployed nearly 75 percent of our relationship.  People joke that I’m a pro at this. I’m not.  It is impossible to be as each deployment offers its own unique challenges, but I am definitely seasoned.  With that said, my life is in fact made up of deployments.  So what does being a wife to a deployed soldier mean? What is the life-like?

To read Jackie’s full blog entry, click HERE.

First Lady to Launch National Military Family Initiative

To ensure military families have the support they’ve earned: that’s the goal of a new initiative being launched Tuesday by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden.  They hope to spark action among citizens, organizations and businesses to help fill the needs of military families.

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks to Marines and their families at Camp Pendleton in California. June 13, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

The duo will “kick-off” their initiative at the White House with a Tuesday event and then hit the road to highlight programs that are already helping military families.

Their itinerary includes a visit Wednesday morning to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina where Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden will speak to 3,000 Marines, soldier, sailors and military family members. They’ll also attend a baby shower for 40 pregnant women with military husbands hosted by Operation Shower, a non-profit organization that throws unit-wide baby showers for expecting military families.

San Antonio, Texas is their next stop on Wednesday to visit privately with wounded warriors and their families and then stop at the Warrior and Family Support Center which was built with private funds and is operated by volunteers to help the families of wounded warriors.

In Denver, they will attend a special Military Family Event planned by the Colorado Rockies and Coors Field. And on Thursday, Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden will attend an employment event in Columbus, Ohio to highlight commitments by large businesses to help military spouses keep their jobs when the family has to transfer. The Columbus visit will culminate with a concert featuring the Muppets and singer Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers for National Guard families.

Questions, Uncertainty, Distrust over Lejeune Water

Photo courtesy: The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten web site.

Saturday was sunny and balmy in Tampa – a day for outdoor enjoyment. Yet, more than 200 people sat inside the Marriott Westshore Hotel salon for hours watching a slide presentation.

Many wore the USMC logo on a ball cap, shirt or jacket signifying their loyalty to the Corps. A loyalty retired Marine drill instructor Jerry Ensminger said was betrayed by USMC leaders. He accused Marine Corps leaders of misleading Marines, their families and civilians about toxic chemicals that polluted Camp Lejeune‘s drinking water for three decades.

“These people have a right to know the truth,” Ensminger said. “I’m not speculating. What we’re presenting in there. What we’re presenting are documents that came right from the Marine Corps and Department of Navy’s own files.”

People at the informational session came with questions about the polluted water at Camp Lejeune. They asked simple requests like how to get cancer checkups every six month instead of annually because “some cancer can move fast,” unidentified participant reflected as he spoke into the microphone that was being passed around.

Photo courtesy: The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten web site.

Many there are already listed on the Marine Corps Lejeune Registry for those who served, worked or lived at Camp Lejeune and were exposed to toxic drinking water from 1957 until 1987. It’s estimated more than 14,000 are Florida residents, second only to North Carolina with the most effected residents.

The gathering, funded by a law firm representing some families, was “to share information” said Ensminger, whose daughter, Janey, was conceived while he was stationed at Camp Lejeune. Janey died of leukemia at age 9. The law firm pays for his travel, hotel room and food. But, Ensminger said he takes no money for his appearances.

“Since all of this came out, the United States Marine Corps and the Navy all have done everything they can to confuse the issue,” Ensminger told reporters during the lunch break. “They’ve obfuscated the facts to the point where a lot of folks like these people that are at this meeting today (Saturday) really don’t know what to believe.”

Photo courtesy: The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten web site.

Additional information has come to light since an initial report, the 1997 Camp Lejeune Public Health Assessment Report. That report was removed from the ATSDR web site because it may be “misleading” according to the site. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry is conducting additional health studies and scientific water models because toxic chemicals were found in other locations.

Ensminger has faith in the validity of the new studies in part because he was included in their design.

In the interim, there’s a lot of uncertainty. Ensminger and Mike Partain, who was born at Camp Lejeune, are leading informational sessions to provide answers based on documents. Partain was one of five men at the gathering and one of 67 men who lived at Camp Lejeune that have been diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer.

The Tampa meeting is the largest one yet according to Ensminger. Other meetings have been conducted in Orlando, Pittsburgh, Virginia and North Carolina. He said a webinar will be held in late January. More information is available on their web site The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten.

“The Department of Defense is constantly, with the all volunteer force, they’re constantly asking American families to loan them their loved ones in the service of this country,” Ensminger said. “Look at their conduct in this Camp Lejeune thing and you tell me whether they deserve to have these families’ loved ones loaned to them. From what I’m seeing right now, no. and I thought I would never say that.”

Did Your Family Drink Camp Lejeune’s Water?

Camp Lejeune's new wastewater treatment plant.

Toxic chemicals seeped into Camp Lejeune‘s water supply for three decades. The contaminated wells weren’t shut down until 1987, years after tests first indicated the water was polluted.

Additionally, Camp Lejeune officials didn’t immediately contact effected families. Here’s a Stars and Stripes timeline of events.

The Camp Lejeune water quality reports are available online.

The Navy mailed letters in May 2010 to veterans stationed at Camp Lejeune informing them of the water contamination between 1957 and 1987. You can download a VA Health Care fact sheet on Camp Lejeune Water Contamination.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has set up a web site with details and also conducted several health studies with Camp Lejeune families.

Marine families once based at Lejeune who have questions about health problems plan to gather today for an informational meeting. Mike Partainat (strashni2002@yahoo.com) is organizing the gathering planned from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Tampa Marriott Westshore, 1001 N. Westshore Blvd.

Former residents and employees of Camp Lejeune can register on the Marine Corps’ official water study website at https://clnr.hqi.usmc.mil/. There’s also a toll free line with the Department of Navy 877-261-9782 staffed Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. or email at clwater@usmc.mil.

Toy Bonanza for Children at MacDill AFB

Two children show off their gifts at a Toy Industry Foundation giveaway at Camp Lejeune in August 2010.

Imagine a grab bag full of 5,500 toys and all the gifts are for the children of military families stationed at MacDill Air Force Base as well as sons and daughters of the Reserve and National Guard members. Due to its high rate of deployment, MacDill’s families were selected for a special toy giveaway planned Nov. 17th between 2 and 6 p.m. at Hangar 3.

The gifts are the Toy Industry Foundation’s way of thanking families for their service. The toys were donated by manufacturers, distributors and both local and national retailers. It’s part of the Toy Industry Foundation’s “Play Comforts” partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs on military bases throughout the U.S.

A happy recipient at the August 2010 Toy Industry Foundation toy giveaway at Camp Lejeune.

MacDill is the first Air Base to be selected for the honor. But in August, the Toy Industry Foundation gave away goodies at other military installations.

The idea is to give military children the opportunity to play and restore a sense of normalcy.

For details on the MacDill Toy Give Away, contact Charles Lechner at charles.lechner@us.af.mil or Lisa LaConte at lisa.laconte@us.af.mil.  Individuals interested in volunteering should contact Mike Tyler at michael.tyler-02@macdill.af.mil.

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