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Marine Wins Battle Against Camp Lejeune's Toxic WaterTim King Salem-News.com
Some shortcuts need to be shared, this story is of value to all who served.
(CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.) - The Marines are winning another battle, and this time the victors are veterans suffering from a variety of diseases that arose from their service at the Camp Lejeune Marine base in North Carolina.
A former Camp Lejeune Marine in Wisconsin has been awarded a 30% disability over illnesses contracted from the base's toxic water. This is a surprise because the federal government has been trying very hard to get out from under the liability of Camp Lejeune. By the looks of things, it isn't going to continue much longer.
John Hartung, who worked with the infamous VMA-214 Blacksheep Squadron, has been working hard for years to make the U.S. government own up to its responsibility to Marines.
He's especially disturbed by remarks he sees as dismissive, made by a two-star Marine Corps general, Major General Eugene G. Payne, Jr. during recent Senate hearings. Hartung believes the regard underscores the inability of the Marine Corp in handling its problems.
Hartung says the Marine general has shown a callous attitude when addressing male breast cancer at Camp Lejeune. At least 43 cases of male breast cancer have been identified so far that are tied to Camp Lejeune's water. The number is rising consistently.
In fact, the problem is so broad, that we just heard from the latest former Marine last Wednesday, who was diagnosed with this rare disease.
Joe Glowacki told Salem-News.com, "I was diagnosed with breast Cancer yesterday. I served in the Marine Corps from 1959 to 1964. I was stationed at Camp Lejeune from 1959 to 1963. I am 67 yrs old and in otherwise good health. If not for the publicity associated with this problem I probably would not have been examining myself for this disease."
Glowacki also said, "We need to continue writing and speaking out on this travesty..."
According to Wikipedia, "As many as 500,000 people may have been exposed to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune over a period of 30 years. Although no official studies have definitively connected the contamination with illness, former residents of Camp Lejeune suffer from a high rate of cancer and other diseases."
There are many who disagree with the part about "no official studies". The very Wikipedia reference mentioned above, also states, "In 1982, Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were found to be in Camp Lejeune's drinking water supply. VOC contamination of groundwater can cause birth defects and other ill health effects in pregnant and nursing mothers. This information was not made public for nearly two decades when the government attempted to identify those who may have been exposed."
Marines had been moving forward and a letter was sent out to many Marines who served at Lejeune, advising them of the potential health complications.
Then that progress suddenly ground to a screeching halt. I reported on June 13, 2009, that a new panel of scientists assembled by the agencies most responsible for the contamination, the Department of the Navy and the Department of Defense, issued a new report claiming that all research on Lejeune's toxic water was inconclusive. (see: National Research Council on TCE Kicks U.S. Marines to the Curb - Tim King Salem-News.com)
It meant that tax paid federal scientists are now working for the main players with something to protect as the reality of this huge environmental disaster keeps coming into view.
Hartung has some ideas that will likely go a long way toward helping Marines. He says the first thing any veteran needs to do is take advantage of existing services.
He says the Disabled American Veterans in Wisconsin was extremely helpful in guiding him through the process. "My DAV reps: John Hansen, John Kleindienst VI and Stephan Garrett, were extremely helpful. I suggest utilizing this extremely helpful group."
Shortcuts Through VA Maze
Hartung's ailments are non cancerous, but they lead to depression, degenerative joint disease, arthritis, and he has a severe swallowing problem which has been attributed possibly, to bone spurs. He is still undergoing testing.
But for all of the suffering, and the government red tape and bureaucracy, this former Marine says there is an answer for others, one that worked for him.
He explains the remedy as something the Veteran's Administration calls "The Nexus Letter" and its importance can't be overstated.
"The thing is the Nexus letter, people don't understand. They need to know because they can be shot down. The wording has to be exactly right or the VA can shoot that letter down and deny you. It has to be in their writing, he explains. The good news is that he knows of a couple of doctors willing to provide the document, it isn't easy to talk them into, based on conversations with other veterans seeking help.
"Nexus means to put it together, to connect the dots. They can do anything they want until they receive that nexus letter." He stresses that there are books out there that will help vets understand what they need to do to get their benefits from the VA.
A retired Air Force major named John Roache, is the author behind the answers. Visit this link to see his four books which border on essential to any veteran seeking compensation and trying to weave their way through the tangled web of the VA system.
Visit this link to Author John Roache to see his books that are specifically designed to provide essential shortcuts for veterans.
The bottom line is that the Nexus letter can be written by any physician, Hartung said.
"It can be written by anybody. There are two doctors who will write it now." To learn more about these developments, you can write to John at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit his Website at lifeaftercamplejeune.com
Hartung has been fully vested in the Camnp Lejeune water issue for ten years, and during that time he says, he has watched one Camp Lejeune Marine after another fall, almost always out of sight and out of mind of the general public. He says it must stop.
"I just buried Dan Hill in Sacramento, his wife didn't know what to do or where to turn" The Camp Lejeune Marine died of brain cancer.
There is no way Hartung can insulate himself from the tragedy, but he keeps going, moving around the nation to help and offer hope to sick and dying Marines.
"I listened to people who are dying, who have no hope left, and nowhere to turn, I'll hold their hand, I'll wipe their eyes."
The problem is magnified by the government's unwillingness to be honest. It is not hard to see why certain individuals view the government's role in the environmental disaster as criminal.
Hartung continued, "I had one black gentleman living at the VA who is homeless, he is living in the dorms and now he's been denied, he's seeking benefits and help, he's a disabled vet."
The Marine Corps says it mailed notices to thousands of Marines starting in 1999, but few Marines recall receiving the letter. Some did receive the letter, but the findings were negated by the decision a few months ago to abandon the existing research that clearly linked Camp Lejeune's water to the sickness and death experienced by those who served there.
Seriously doubting the number of notices that the Marines actually sent out, Hartung lightheartedly says, "I was one of the original 10 to get that letter."
Hartung isn't the only Marine who has been able to connect his service-related disability to Camp Lejeune's dirty water, in spite of the twisting moves and changing rules of the government. That is hope for others who are increasingly learning about the Marine base's dirty secret.
Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor.
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