By Morgan Watkins | July 1st, 2011
For decades, the U.S. military covered up a secret that may have harmed thousands of Marines and their families.
A documentary called “Semper Fi: Always Faithful” reveals this dangerous secret: From 1957 to 1987, thousands of Marines based at Camp Lejeune were exposed to contaminated water that included organic compounds that were at levels of up to 280 times higher than the legally safe limit.
Although news of the contamination came to light in 1987, the Marine Corps kept it quiet for years afterward.
Camp Lejeune is located in N.C. and is the largest Marine base on the East Coast, and many Marines have either died or lost family members to cancer and other problems. Some children have been born with major birth defects or have developed leukemia, according to a Project on Government Oversight article.
The Semper Fi documentary, filmed by Rachel Libert and Tony Hardmon, follows Marine Corps Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger during his fight to find answers about what happened at Camp Lejeune that may have led to his 9-year-old daughter’s death from a rare form of leukemia.
This film, which won two awards at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival, shows how important it is to hold the government accountable for its actions and to fight for the truth even if it takes years to get it.
Ensminger’s tireless work has caused change, with legislation in Congress to provide health care for people exposed to the Camp Lejeune contamination. Another bill, known as the Janey Ensminger Act, is named for Ensminger’s 9-year-old daughter.
– Morgan Watkins
Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (email@example.com) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).