U.S. Senate passes bill to provide medical coverage for Camp Lejeune survivors of the alleged largest water contamination incident in U.S. history
In response to the decades-long efforts of Sgt. Jerry Ensminger, a retired U.S. marine drill sergeant of 24 years, the U.S. Senate has passed a bill that will provide medical care for the estimated 200,000 people who lived on the military base Camp Lejeune during the three decades when water on the base was allegedly poisoned by cancer-causing chemicals. His popular campaign on Change.org gained more than 135,000 signatures in less a month.
“It has taken fifteen years, countless hours of research and advocacy, an award-winning documentary, and a grassroots campaign for us to get to this point, but I have hope that our victory will make it easier for others,” Ensminger said.
Ensminger’s petition called on the U.S. Congress to provide medical care for the families who were stationed at Camp Lejeune between 1957 and 1987, a 30-year period when water on the base was allegedly contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals. According to Change.org, the contamination at the base has been well documented through the years, though Ensminger said the U.S. government has been slow to respond to calls for medical help for affected veterans and their families.
The Senate passed the bill yesterday by unanimous consent. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill in the coming weeks. Ensminger has testified before Congress and is the subject of the documentary "Semper Fi: Always Faithful." He also co-founded the organization The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten, which focused on connecting survivors of Camp Lejeune’s water contamination to each other.
Ensminger says he has been humbled by the outpouring of support on this issue. More than 135,000 people signed his petition on Change.org in less than a month.
“I am thankful to everyone who has supported this work—from our elected officials who chose to truly represent us to the 135,000 people across the country who signed my petition on Change.org,” Ensminger said. “Thank you for standing with us. I know I can't bring my daughter back, but now Janey's memory will continue with honor and a message of hope.”