On Thursday 8/18/22, I agreed to give a speech at the AMVETS National Convention about toxic water exposure at Camp Lejeune and the lawsuits that will follow because of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. This was a challenge and intimidating to discuss my personal views about Camp Lejeune with a large group of highly interested veterans. The boards of Veteran Service Organizations and their members were the very people that turned an idea into a law with the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. The other concern that I had was how relatable my message would be to non-marines, or marines that never went to Camp Lejeune.
I decided to focus on what the Camp Lejeune Justice Act means to all veterans and their families. The important thing to remember are the victims. One of the first people I met as part of this case was Dawn Green. She lost her husband, a Vietnam Vet, to bladder cancer. Her heartbreaking story is only one of thousands of other victims’ stories. I told some of her story. And then I posed a question to the audience:
Why does the Camp Lejeune Justice act matter to you? Why does allowing those exposed to toxic chemicals in the drinking water on a military base matter to everyone?
Allowing the victims of toxic water exposure to file a lawsuit is important for two reasons. First, it is the right thing to do. Those who spent time at Camp Lejeune were the unlucky group of our military. They drew the short straw that led to toxic water exposure. It could have been any base and any veteran could have been the unlucky one. We should care deeply for these people and their family – because it is right – and because it could literally have been any veteran or their family members.
Second, The Camp Lejeune Justice Act is a revolutionary piece of legislation. It will set the stage for future legislation on behalf of veterans. The thoughtfulness in how the law was written to allow an “equipoise standard” instead of a causation standard is more consistent with scientific literature. The precise language of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act provides a real opportunity for victims to be made whole. Injuries occurred decades ago and proving how cancer is caused is best left to scholars. What anyone who reads the studies know is people that were exposed to Camp Lejeune toxic water are much more likely to suffer serious illness, including cancer.
There are a lot of lawyers getting involved in Camp Lejeune toxic water cases. There needs to be a lot of lawyers. I expect that there are over a hundred thousand victims in this case and victims cannot go to court without a lawyer. It is likely to be the largest case in American history.
The lawyers who represent these victims are going to set the stage for future legislation. Doing our job well will mean the story of our victims will be told and our nation will know the extent of the tragedy that occurred at Camp Lejeune for over 30 years. We owe it to ourselves and the victims to bring more awareness to the effects of toxic water and the illnesses it causes. Veterans and military are paying the price of a government that failed to act quickly enough. Lawyers can demonstrate that strong and creative legislation helps people and that victim centered legislation should be a priority of the US government.
I am grateful that I was invited to speak at AMVETS national conference. Since my very first meeting with a victim that was exposed to toxic water at Camp Lejeune it has been my top priority personally and professionally. I have spent a lot of hours traveling, meeting with veterans and their families, learning the law and questioning how this tragedy was able to happen. Leading up to this speech, I was nervous and wanted to get it right. This talk was my test. My thoughts were my own and I wondered would it measure up to all of these men and women that cared so deeply? Would the people that got the law passed find my opinions worthy of their consideration?
As I spoke, I knew that they agreed with me. After having done my share of jury trials, I know when I have the Jury. On this day the courtroom was the conference room at the Marriott and the jury was all of veterans that took their time to come down and fill that place for a week. I could see them nodding and when it was over they clapped in a way that told me I connected with them. At the end, Commander Heun gave me one of those real military handshakes, twice as hard as the welcome handshake he had given me a few minutes earlier. It felt really good to know I had lived up to their expectations.
The rest of the trip was a blur. I met a lot of great people. I learned the Iowa Chapter was having a gun raffle (I plan to win) and the St. Louis Riders are having a Bar-B-Que competition (I am a sponsor). I learned about how officers are nominated and how they host the biggest motorcycle rally in the US (sorry Sturgis). Mostly I learned that this is a wonderful group of people who care a lot about veterans. These are the people whose opinion I care about. I am forever grateful for their kind words and support.
If you or someone you know has been affected by the toxic water contamination at Camp Lejeune, please call our office directly at 585-326-5933 or contact us by filling out the secure form at the top of this page and we will get in touch with you immediately.