The widow of a MARINE husband has told how he was killed years after being exposed to toxic water at a military base.
Eric Holford, who was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina between 1984 and 1988, died in 2019 from complications from a Cancer Battle.
Britain’s Michelle James, from London, is among the widows fighting for justice for veterans who served on the base and were exposed to toxic water.
Thousands of lawsuits were filed against veterans stationed at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 over alleged exposure to toxic water.
It is estimated that around a million people were exposed to toxic water at the military base.
The drinking water was contaminated with chemicals found in waste from a chemical cleaning plant and a leaking fuel depot.
Michelle, who met Eric through a dating app and moved to the US in 2014, told The US Sun that her husband is a very “proud” Marine.
She said: “He loved showing off his skills as he was a very good shot. He received medals and awards for his shooting skills.”
Michelle, who lives in Jacksonville, Fla., said that Eric’s dress sense is “very keen” and that he wouldn’t allow her to iron his uniform.
According to Michelle, Eric of Nashville, Tennessee, enlisted in the Marines when he was 18 as an “innocent kid,” and she said joining the armed forces was his passion.
She said: “He always wanted to be a Marine. There is nothing better than the Marines.”
Michelle conducting one Facebook A widows’ group revealed that Americans who join the armed forces know they are “signing their lives” for their country.
She said: “They think they might be killed in battle – they’re prepared for that.
“But they don’t expect to be killed when they come out.”
“Write Your Life Away”
Michelle, 57, is fighting to keep her husband no number by saying: “I don’t want his death to be in vain.”
“I want him to restore that dignity. We don’t even have a tombstone.”
“He didn’t have a Marines military funeral. He had nothing like that.”
Michelle revealed she’s managed to change her husband’s death certificate to include a reference to Camp Lejeune – after an uphill battle.
In January 2016, Eric was diagnosed with colon cancer and underwent surgery to remove part of his colon.
This comes years after he complained about health problems and was told by doctors he was “too young” to have cancer.
Doctors initially thought he might have prostate cancer before tests revealed colon cancer.
However, Eric suffered complications after the surgery.
Michelle said by 2018 Eric’s cancer appeared to be gone before tragically spotting in his lungs and liver was discovered.
Eric was diagnosed with bladder cancer and battled kidney disease.
Doctors said Eric’s prognosis is to have several of his organs removed, which Michelle said he’s not ready to do. He died in September 2019 at the age of 53.
In 1982, the Marine Corps discovered gases that had contaminated the water supply.
The drinking water from the Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point wastewater treatment plants was contaminated with PCE – tetrachlorethylene and TCE (trichlorethylene).
Federal health officials have found that exposure to both chemicals can cause certain types of cancer.
Most of the contaminated wells at Camp Lejeune were closed in 1985.
Michelle said soldiers and their families were “exposed to a chemical cocktail” at the base.
Veterans who were stationed at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1953 and December 1987 and were not honorably discharged by 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.
Last summer, President Biden signed legislation, the PACT Act, allowing 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.
In June it was reported that judges were under fire for answering more than 600 individual lawsuits.
More than 70,000 lawsuits have been filed since the PACT Act went into effect.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio fumed, “It is unacceptable that those affected by contaminated water are stuck in a bureaucratic waiting game. Those who have served this nation deserve better.”
The legal process is deadlocked and cases get stuck in court.
Claims reports continue to pour in; Judge James Dever estimated that if he and his three other colleagues reviewed each case individually, it could take more than 1,000 years.
Michelle has said she follows policy debates on the C-SPAN network and believes the federal government was aware of infrastructure issues when the PACT Act went into effect.
But despite the legal standoff, she said she will not give up the fight for her late husband and comrades who were exposed to toxic water at the base.
Michelle noted that some veterans and their families want compensation, while others would prefer a government apology.
She said, “For me, justice would be recognition.”
“I’ve said to senators before, ‘You have awards like the Purple Heart, I want the government to do something to recognize the victims of Camp Lejeune.’
“I think they should be awarded or given a memorial. Over a million people have been poisoned.”