THE mysterious deaths of three children at Camp Lejeune last month wasn’t the first time tragedy has rocked the military base.
Between 1953 and 1987, hundreds of infants died and were buried near the base in North Carolina in a cemetery called Baby Heaven.
During this time, people living or working on the base were exposed to potentially toxic water.
Toxins included trichlorethylene, benzene and perchlorethylene, and the concentration of the water was between 240 and 3400 times higher than the level allowed by safety standards at the time.
Decades later, scientists linked possible exposure to toxic water to diseases such as kidney cancer, leukemia, and liver cancer.
Ex-Marine Martin Keimig, who was twice stationed at Camp Lejeune in 1972 and 1974, told The Sun: “In 1972 bottled water was unknown. Nobody gave it [quality of the] Water a second thought.”
Officials at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention have been collecting data since 2000 and have found at least 103 cases of childhood cancer and birth defects that may have been linked to the toxic waters of the 1960s and 1970s.
Scientists analyzed more than 12,000 health surveys of children born to parents between 1968 and 1985.
In 2012, former President Barack Obama signed the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act into law.
The legislation provides care for soldiers and relatives stationed at Camp Lejeune who may have been exposed to the toxins.
The Obama administration agreed to provide a total of more than $2 billion in benefits to veterans exposed to contaminated water.
To be eligible, veterans must have been stationed at the base for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987, according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
And they must have been diagnosed with one or more conditions, including adult leukemia, aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and Parkinson’s disease.
In an opinion piece for the Charlotte Observer, Audrey Williams Pride recalled that she and her husband had moved to Camp Lejeune in 1984.
She was pregnant with their first child, William James Morris III.
She was looking forward to the birth, but noticed spotting – just a few days before the birth.
Audrey was told to go to the hospital and tragically the doctors couldn’t find a heartbeat and she was ordered to give birth.
Audrey’s son did not survive and an autopsy found no cause of death.
She wrote: “I fell into a deep depression and blamed myself for the death of my son. I carried this guilt and this devastating depression with me for years.”
But she heard Obama mention Lejeune and started making the connection.
She said, “It was only then that I gathered the facts and concluded that my son’s death was directly related to the contaminated water I drank and cooked with before and during my pregnancy.”
Janey, the daughter of retired Marine Corps drill instructor Jerry Ensminger, was diagnosed with leukemia in 1982.
She tragically died three years later at the age of nine.
He blamed the toxic water at Camp Lejeune for her death.
Ensminger told CBS News in January, “Nothing compares to seeing one of your children suffer and go through hell.
“And I blame the Marine Corps and the Department of the Navy.”
Sally McLaughlin, then 18, moved to Camp Lejeune in August 1962 with her husband Tom, 21.
The young couple had their first child, Carrie, and years later, when Tom was rehired and assigned to a base in Hawaii, Sally became pregnant again.
On February 5, 1966, she went into labor and said doctors had a “grim” on her face, Mike Magner’s book A Trust Betrayed: The Untold Story of Camp Lejeune and the Poisoning of Generations of Marines and Their Families uncovered.
She recalls, “I kept saying, ‘We’re having a baby. Why the grim faces?’ Nobody was in a hurry, it was all a fact.”
“I remember the doctor telling me the baby was dead.”
Their child, who they named Michelle, suffered from anencephaly — meaning most of the brain was missing.
JOHN SAMUEL HOLLIDAY JR
Louella Holliday’s son, John Samuel Holliday Jr., died on November 10, 1973 – about 15 hours after his birth.
His death came just months after she gave birth to a child on the base in January this year.
She had moved into accommodation at Camp Lejeune when her husband, John, a Navy Corpsman, was assigned to the base hospital.
Recalling her ordeal 40 years later, according to Magner, she revealed that her children at Lejeune also suffered from health issues.
She said: “Like my daughter Angela, when she was not even a year old, she had nosebleeds so bad that her eyes bled.”
And Louella said her son William’s face was “terribly swollen”.
According to Louella, Angela’s health improved after the family left the military base in 1976.
RUSSELL ALEXANDER THORPE
Mary Freshwater was a mother to two healthy children when she and her husband moved to Lejeune.
But their third child, Russell Alexander Thorpe, was alive just a month after his November 30 birth.
She said: “It was really a shock when he was born like this and then when he died, he died in my arms. He breathed his last. That was just after midnight on the last day of 1977.”
Keimig, who was diagnosed with stage three kidney cancer in 2013, said part of the blame lay with the government.
He said: “You have to blame whoever was in charge at the time. Part of the blame lies with the Marine Corps, and they have admitted part of it.
“Whoever was in charge of that branch of government at the time is ultimately responsible.”
And he said officials need to be more transparent about the contamination.
He called on military bosses to “serve” the families and loved ones of those also stationed at the base.
children found dead
Three children were found dead at Camp Lejeune on April 16.
According to documents obtained by WITN, two of the children died at their parents’ home in the Berkeley Manor neighborhood of the base.
The documents listed the cause of death for the two sisters – aged four and six – as “pending”.
The father of two to three children is reportedly a staff sergeant with the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines.
No information was released about the death of the third child.
A spokesman for the Naval Criminal Investigation Service confirmed that no one has yet been charged in connection with the deaths at the base.
The spokesman said, “Out of respect for the investigative process, NCIS does not comment or confirm details of ongoing investigations.”
GOP Rep. Greg Murphy, representing North Carolina’s 3rd congressional district, has called for transparency in the investigation into the deaths.
The Sun has reached out to Camp Lejeune for comment.
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https://www.the-sun.com/news/5345423/camp-lejeune-baby-heaven-cemetery-deaths-marines/ In the disturbing story of Camp Lejeune with the nearby overcrowded Baby Heaven cemetery following the mysterious deaths of 3 children