Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Changed Military Families Forever

The Camp Lejeune water contamination tested military families who thought they knew what to expect when their loved ones stepped up to serve. 

“Becoming a Marine affects the entire family—and often even the entire community.” 

These words featured on the Marines website couldn’t be truer for those serving at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 when contaminated water slowly poisoned healthy Marines and their families.

Anthony, a Marine stationed on the North Carolina base four separate times during his years of service, is the patriarch of one of the families affected by Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water. This father of 8 and grandfather of 27 experiences many of the long-term health effects of Camp Lejeune water that have left him with financial, emotional, and physical hardships. This brave veteran now fears that his decision to serve his country has changed his family’s future forever.


How Did the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Affect Veterans and Their Families?

The estimated one million residents who lived and worked on base during the years that Camp Lejeune water was contaminated now suffer from long-term health effects and diseases, like cancer, infertility, and Parkinson’s. But the physical challenges these civilians and Marines face are only a part of their plights. Years of medical care without proper benefits for families of Camp Lejeune veterans caused financial strain; the water contaminants spurred neurobehavioral effects that make everyday life challenging, and the emotional damages are impossible to quantify.

Families at Camp Lejeune Lost Countless Loved Ones

It isn’t possible to count the families affected by Camp Lejeune water contamination. Mothers and fathers observed a devastating pattern of childhood cancers, miscarriages, and cardiac birth defects at Camp Lejeune. The Marines, spouses, and children who were seemingly healthy while living on base would later experience long-term health effects from drinking Camp Lejeune water. 

Though Anthony lived to tell his story, his mobility and eyesight are limited due to the toxins he was exposed to at Camp Lejeune; he can’t interact with his kids or grandkids in the ways he always imagined. Despite surviving battlefields, many other veterans wouldn’t overcome the long-term health effects of drinking Camp Lejeune water, never getting to see what would become of their sons or daughters.

Military Service Members Felt Betrayed by the Government

Trusting your commander, comrades, and country is ingrained in service members’ DNA. When Government officials concealed information and allowed Camp Lejeune residents to continue drinking water from tainted wells for years, the trust between service members and their leaders was broken. Anthony recalls the tangy, chemical taste of the water and how his instincts about Camp Lejeune water contamination were dismissed. Still, he didn’t imagine the Government would poison its own, a fact that is difficult for many Marines to swallow. 

Everyone should have been informed what the scientific studies on Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water revealed about the toxins so they could protect themselves and their families. Instead of sounding the alarm and instigating precautions, the Government looked the other way, ignoring the Marines’ honor code of ethics. It’s unknown how many lives may have been saved had families been provided medical monitoring and health benefits as soon as the scope of the Camp Lejeune water contamination was known. 

Veterans’ Hardships Extended Beyond Physical Health Problems

Some health conditions Anthony experienced along with many of his fellow service members who lived at Camp Lejeune were obvious, but hidden struggles—mounting medical bills and emotional distress—also threatened the livelihood of countless military families. Neurobehavioral effects, including insomnia, headaches, and mood changes, plus feeling forgotten and overlooked, left veterans and their loved ones feeling hopeless and deserted.

But the recent PACT Act helps Camp Lejeune families exposed to toxic water get answers to unexplained conditions before it is too late.