GRAND JUNCTION, Colo (KKCO) President Obama is calling it a "moral and sacred" duty. Reports say up to 1 million Marines, Sailors and their families assigned to Camp Lejuene, North Carolina were exposed to toxins in base water from 1957 to 1987. Many are now suffering from several illnesses as a result of the tainted water.
Now decades later, a new law is offering help. "This is the first I've heard about it," says Jim Harville, a Marine who now lives in Grand Junction. At a White House ceremony Monday, President Obama signed the "Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012." Harville is a Marine who was stationed at Camp Lejeune from February 1968 to June 1969.Harville says he didn't know anything about the incident at the time, and the water didn't taste different to him. "No, I didn't see anything wrong with it," says Harville.
Harville and his fellow Marines went about the day to day business of a military base. "Never paid it any attention, you know, no one brought it to our attention." Thankfully, Harville hasn't shown any signs of illness. "Not according to what these symptoms were on this paper, I've never had any of them, thank God for that," says Harville.
We contacted the Department of Veteran's Affairs in Washington D.C., our calls weren't returned. Paul Sweeney, local VA spokesman, wasn't authorized to talk to us on this topic, but encourages all veterans to visit the VA hospital to file any service-connected disability.
"Which is any physical or mental condition related to their military service, that negatively impacts their life today," explains Sweeney.
But for Harville, he's satisfied something is finally being done for his fellow Marines and their families. "I'm glad they finally recognized it, but they were about 40 years late," says Harville.
President Obama also signed a bill into law that extends the application deadline for veterans with undiagnosed illnesses from Desert Storm for five years.
If you have any questions, Barbara Martinez, a Denver-based VA representative, will be visiting the Grand Valley Wednesday, August 8th to Friday, August 10th.
Martinez will be at the Montrose Veteran's Clinic Wednesday, August 8th from 9am-3:30pm. That's at 4 Hillcrest Plaza Way. Martinez will then be in Grand Junction Thursday, August 9th at Main Street Bagels Vault Room from 9am to 3pm. That's at the corner of Main Street and Sixth Street. Martinez will visit the Grand Junction Homeless Shelter on Pitkin Avenue on Friday, August 10th, from 8-10am. We're told Martinez will also visit the Homeward Bound shelter on North Avenue in Grand Junction Wednesday or Thursday.