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The Few, The Proud, The DamagedTim King Salem-News.com
One Marine's struggle to expose the toxicity of the Camp Lejeune Marine base.
(SALEM, Ore.) - CNN and other media groups published a story yesterday about a Camp Lejeune Marine who survived breast cancer. The story shows progress in the mainstream media towards addressing this serious issue affecting hundreds of thousands of Americans.
Jim Fontella of Michigan is one of 22 male breast cancer survivors from Lejeune, says fellow survivor Mike Partain , who was raised in a Marine Corps family.
As we have reported many times in the past, the Camp Lejeune Marine base in North Carolina is heavily contaminated with PCE (tetrachloroethylene) and TCE (trichloroethylene) as well as other cancer causing agents. Jerry Ensminger's was a Marine at Lejeune who lost his daughter to cancer. Once he connected her death to the base pollution, he became a one man force strictly and utterly determined to get to the bottom of the base's toxicity issues. (see: Male Breast Cancer: a Hard Bullet to Dodge for Marines at Camp LejeuneTim King Salem-News.com)
Letters went out to Marines and former Marines a couple of years ago, indicating the government's understanding of the magnitude of the issue.
Then in recent weeks, practically out of nowhere, the Department of Defense and the Department of the Navy, the two agencies responsible for handling the cost of the pollution, gathered a group of scientists, the National Resource Council, and had them reevaluate the issue.
Their findings were that the contamination can't be linked to the health problems former residents have suffered. It was a convenient and cost effective move for the federal government, and one rooted in shame according to the Marines who are suffering as a result of the blatant environmental hazard.
Partain and Fontella cry foul. Fontella told CNN, "That's literally unheard of to have 20 men come from the same place, walking on the same dirt, drinking the same water." Fontella was based at Camp Lejeune between 1966 and 1967. "I mean, there has to be a link there somehow. And they're saying that it couldn't happen," he told CNN.
A native of Detroit, Fontella fought in Vietnam and was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998.
After surgery, it returned and moved into his spine and back.
He explained, "Once you have metastasis in the bone, it's basically just a matter of time before you die, you know." He continued, "Luckily I have already passed my due date by five years. I outlived that death sentence I got."
Here is a link to the CNN article: cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/09/24/marines.breast.cancer/index.html
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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