After more than 135,000 people signed Jerry Ensminger's campaign on Change.org, President Obama has signed the Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act into law. The law provides health coverage for the military families who drank water contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals over a thirty-year period at the Camp Lejeune military base in North Carolina. Jerry, whose daughter Janey died in 1985 of childhood leukemia after drinking the water on the base, has been working for more than 15 years to win justice for the survivors of the largest water contamination scandal in U.S. history.
“I am thankful to everyone who has supported this work -- from our elected officials who chose to truly represent us to the 135,000 people across the country who signed my petition on Change.org. Thank you for standing with us. I know I can't bring my daughter back, but now Janey's memory will continue with honor and a message of hope," said Jerry.
My name is Jerry Ensminger, and I served my country faithfully for 24 years in the United States Marine Corps. During that time, I trained thousands of recruits to become honored Marines. And, like too many who lived at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, my family suffered great tragedy due to contaminated water at the base.
That’s why I’m asking for your help, to call on the U.S. government to help the families still suffering from the effects of toxic water at Camp Lejeune. Those of us who drank the water have suffered from cancers, leukemias, miscarriages and birth defects from the cancer-causing chemicals in the water. Last month, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki said providing healthcare to Camp Lejeuene veterans is "premature," and there are two bills in Congress that would provide health care for the families and veterans who desperately need it. But these measures are being held up by politics.
Our nation's leaders must act now to provide health care for the veterans and their families who were stationed at Camp Lejeune.
In 1983, my daughter Janey was diagnosed with childhood leukemia. Janey -- the only one of my children either conceived, born, or raised on the base -- was just six years old. For two and a half years, I watched Janey fight for her life. I watched her fight, suffer, and die. She passed away 27 years ago, when she was just 9 years old.
My daughter Janey was the only person in our family's history to be stricken with this awful disease -- but she is one of possibly 200,000 people who have gotten sick from the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. Years after her death, I learned of a report indicating the drinking water at the base had been contaminated during the time we lived there -- with chemicals suspected of causing childhood cancers and birth defects. I have not stopped working to help other victims since.
What happened at Camp Lejeune is one the worst cases of drinking water contamination in American history. Nearly 1 million people drank, bathed, and cooked with the base's water for three decades.
When the Marine Corps learned about the poisoned water in the early 80s, federal law required them to clean it up. But the Marine Corps failed to tell the truth about the contamination until the late 90s, and even then only told part of the truth. Sadly, many who were stationed at Camp Lejeune still don't know why they were ill -- or don't know how vigilant they must be now about their health.
It has taken years to expose the truth, and the Marine Corps has fought transparency at every turn -- delaying funding for health studies, withholding key documents and failing to disclose the true extent of the contamination to the public, the media, and Congress until forced to do so.
I have appealed to Marine Corps leadership to make things right for the families who have suffered, and I have testified before Congress asking for transparency and medical help for those who are now ill. The stories of families like mine have been documented in the film Semper Fi: Always Faithful. You can learn more about what happened here: www.tftptf.com.
Thousands of people who were poisoned at Camp Lejeune are struggling without access to the medical care they need. It's time for the U.S. government to provide the people who are still suffering the effects of the toxic water at Camp Lejeune with health care. We volunteered to serve and protect our nation...we never volunteered to be poisoned by our own leaders!