A Marine’s widow has told how she is fighting for justice after her late husband was exposed to toxic water at a military base.
Private Eric Holford was diagnosed with cancer more than two decades after serving at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
Between 1953 and 1987, over a million people were potentially exposed to toxic water at the base.
Eric, 53, died of cancer in 2019 and his wife Michelle James is now fighting for justice for the widows of veterans and retired Marines who are struggling with their health after allegedly being exposed to toxic water.
Michelle, 57, told The US Sun: “I don’t want his death to be in vain and I don’t want him to be just a number. I want him to have some dignity and have that dignity restored.”
Eric, from Nashville, Tennessee, enlisted in the Marines at age 18 due to a passion for military service.
She revealed he was a “proud” military man and loved showing off his shooting skills.
However, she revealed that Eric was an “innocent little boy” when he signed up to be a Marine.
Michelle said the Marines are aware of the risks of “laying down their lives for the US” but are not preparing for death once they leave the battlefield.
She said: “You don’t expect to be killed by your country once you get out.”
Michelle met Eric online and moved to Jacksonville, Florida in May 2014 before they tied the knot.
However, she revealed that her husband suffered from health issues before he was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2016.
Prior to his diagnosis, Eric was told by doctors that he was “too young” to have the disease, Michelle said.
After being diagnosed with cancer, he had to undergo surgery to remove part of the colon, but it didn’t go well.
Michelle said Eric suffered complications after the surgery.
In 2017, Eric was told he was cancer-free before doctors discovered spots on his liver and lungs.
He was diagnosed with bladder cancer and battled kidney disease before dying in September 2019.
Michelle said that Eric received a less than honorable discharge and before he died she told him she would continue the fight.
She recalled, “I said I’m not going to give up the fight. No matter what the cost, I’ll keep going [going].”
After an arduous process, Michelle was able to amend her husband’s death certificate to include a reference to Camp Lejeune.
She has become a passionate champion of families fighting for justice.
Michelle, who created a Facebook account for Camp Lejeune widows, said: “Now this isn’t about Eric. It is the injustice done to these people.”
Thousands of lawsuits have been filed related to toxic water pollution.
Drinking water at the military base was contaminated with chemicals found in waste from a chemical cleaning plant and a leaking fuel storage facility.
Environmental Protection Agency chiefs called Camp Lejeune a “big polluter” in the 1970s.
The drinking water from the Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point wastewater treatment plants was contaminated with PCE – tetrachlorethylene and TCE (trichlorethylene).
PCE was widely used to clean machinery while TCE was used to degrease metal in tank and aircraft maintenance.
Federal health officials have found that exposure to both chemicals can cause certain types of cancer.
Veterans who were stationed at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1953 and December 1987 and did not receive a dishonorable discharge from the military are eligible for disability compensation.
However, they must have been diagnosed with at least one of the eight diseases listed.
Diseases include adult leukemia, aplastic anemia, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Parkinson’s disease.
LastPresident Biden Law that allowed veterans to seek redress in federal court.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act, part of the PACT Act, allows veterans and their families to file claims for damage caused by exposure to toxic water.
Victims and their families can sue if their case is not resolved within six months.
After the PACT Act went into effect, thousands of cases were brought before the courts.
Judges have warned that if each case were handled individually, it could take more than 1,000 years.
Michelle railed against the government, claiming that Washington DC politicians were aware of infrastructure problems before the PACT Act went into effect.
She said: “Widows have lost their husbands. The breadwinner is gone now. They don’t think about the aftermath of losing a loved one.”
Former Marine Martin Keimig previously told The US Sun that some veterans “go to their graves” without receiving justice.
Michelle admitted she didn’t think she was going to be a widow.
She said: “I didn’t think at that young age that I would be alone.
“Eric always said this was his last rodeo. I thought we were here [in Florida]grow old gracefully and gaze at the stars.
“I imagined that. I never dreamed that I would travel all the way from England to become a lawyer.”