Live and learn: how the Marine Corps changed my life

Gibson, GA

After receiving a meritorious promotion out of boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., I was ready and excited to start my tour of duty as a young motivated Marine. Little did I know that there was a secret being concealed that was so damaging, that had I known I would have never reported to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., as my orders had commanded.
But, unaware of the deadly secret, I reported in March 1983, where I worked, played and stayed until September 1985, when orders sent me to Okinawa, Japan, where I stayed for approximately 12 months. Around the first week of October 1986, while taking my exit physical, one of my skin tests (PPD) came back positive, so I was put on medical hold.
I was finally cleared to leave a couple of weeks later, and when I inquired about the medical hold, I was told about something in my body that was rejecting the test. Well, me being young and in good physical shape (I thought), I was anxious to get home because I had been approved for a job in law enforcement.
In 1993, seven years out of active duty, I started having joint pain and kidney stones. These episodes got progressively worse and in 2003, at 39, I had to stop work and apply for disability. I was told by private doctors that I had kidney damage and the worst case of gout they had ever seen. In 2005, I received a letter from Marine Corps Headquarters stating that I had been exposed to contaminated water while at Lejeune.
In December 2011, at 49, I was hospitalized at the Augusta VA, where they amputated my legs above the knee and placed me on hospice because of renal failure. Once I improved, I was sent to a nursing home with joint and kidney damage, VA claim in appeal. I feel betrayed and depression has set in. I am bedridden, with the loss of use of both hands and severe chronic gout. If only I had known the secret.

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