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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Section 7, Site 584 is where you will find Robin Yerdon’s final resting place at Jacksonville’s National Cemetery. He’s one of six Terry Parker High graduates who joined the Marines in 1977. Of the six, three are dead, two have serious health issues following their service at Camp Lejeune. Only one is healthy. Kyle Yerdon said dad never talked much about Camp Lejeune.
“I’m just really devastated that it all happened, really. I don’t understand how our government could ever think about covering that up,” Kyle Yerdon said.
Kyle and his brother no longer have a dad. Kyle said he is just learning details of the tainted ground water at Camp Lejeune that likely explains what happened.
A million gallons of aviation fuel that leaked with benzene, vinyl chloride and tetrcloroenthylene is causing health issues. Marines and their families who can prove they spent at least one month on base some time turning a 30-year span starting in 1957 are eligible for help.
Yerdon would have likely qualified, but he died before Congressional action
Sandra Lamb is a Jacksonville mom who has questions too. Her son, Edward, joined the Marines with his five Terry Parker buddies.
“He couldn’t breathe, very short of breath. He would always say ‘my chest hurts,’ and then his neck started swelling up,” she said.
That was right before Christmas five years ago. Mom cherishes a picture taken weeks before his death.
Her son died of cancer, his Parker classmate Robin Yerdon from a rare heart condition and Wayne Nordie died with a compromised immune system. This mom shakes her head.
“It is devastating, it’s heart breaking. I almost wish I didn’t know,” Lamb said.
Bob Kahaly and Frank Oshman were part of the group as well. They are battling cancer and neurological problems, lingering health issues they say from time served at Camp Lejeune.
Dean Altizer is the only one of the six that is healthy. He never was stationed Camp Lejeune.
“Well it was kind of slow. First Bobby had something. It didn’t really click, and then Edward got sick, I still didn’t really pertain it to Camp Lejeune, then Frank, then just kept snowballing,” Altizer said.
It snowballed into service of another kind, The Poisoned Patriots Fund of America. Kahaly runs the operation from his modest Ponte Vedra home. A telephone and computer connects this organization to people wanting help and answers.
This mom has fond memories of the six Terry Parker grads who sought adventure together joining the Marines. Sandra Lamb hopes that may be some day, someone in the government acknowledges her loss.
“That’s not asking for much. Just a few words, if they’re sincere,” Lamb said.
The VA is handling all the health care claims with 15 conditions, including a handful of different kinds of cancer being covered.
Some families say the law comes too late to give their Marine a fighting chance.
Click here to watch First Coast News video interview.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Some veterans on the First Coast are not wearing the scars of battle, but some bear the lingering effects of contaminated water they drank as young Marines training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
The base had a problem with ground water contamination over a span of three decades starting in the 1950s.
In 1977, six teenagers from Terry Parker High School joined the Marines looking for adventure, but time has taken a toll as three are now dead who trained at Camp Lejeune, two having serious health problems with one leading a healthy life.
Bob Kahaly is one of three classmates still alive and lives in Ponte Vedra Beach and spent more than a year at Camp Lejeune after graduating from high school.
“Diagnosed in 2001, stage four Non-Hodgkins lymphoma. I had close to 50 chemo treatments,” said Kahaly from his home, where he currently headquarters a non-profit organization called the Poisoned Patriots Fund of America.
The government estimates as many as one million Marines and dependents could have been exposed to contaminated drinking water poisoned with trichlorethylene, tetrachloroethylene, benzene and vinyl chloride.
The sources of the contamination were leaking underground aviation fuel tanks that poured more than a million gallons in the ground water.
“My doctors said at the very beginning ‘this is a very rare cancer, where did you get this?'” said Kahaly when he first experienced health problems.
Now he suspects he knows the answer: the water he drank and bathed in as a young Marine, who had just graduated from Terry Parker High School in Jacksonville.
Frank Oshman from Jacksonville was a classmate of Kahaly’s who also joined the Marines as a teenager just out of high school.
He too is experiencing health problems.
“I have experienced some weirdness, sometimes will nod or stutter or whatever. They (doctors) say things will progress as time goes by,” said Oshman from the docks of a local transportation company, where he utilizes skills he learned as a Marine.
“I put a few of the dots together that some experiences I was having could be directly related to chemical poisons, some side effects, some neurological effects,” said Oshman.
Sandra Lamb is a Jacksonville mother who has questions following her son Edward’s death. He was part of Terry Parker class who joined the Marines and served in Camp Lejeune. Cancer claimed his life at the age of 49.
“He could not walk always aid my chest hurts, neck started swelling,” said his mother from her Arlington home.
She is not sure or not whether the contaminated water played a role in her son’s death, but she suspects it probably did.
“It is devastating, heart breaking. I almost wish I did not know,” said Lamb who keeps in touch with her son’s Terry Parker classmates who joined the Marines.
Oshman and Kahaly are active in the organization they helped form to assist fellow Marines and families wanting answers about health issues related to the water at Camp Lejeune.
What Kahaly said what troubles him the most is the three classmates from Terry Parker who never enjoyed the prime years of the life.
“All five of us had some rare health issues and got sick in our early 40s, mid 40s. We lost three of our friends on or close to the age of 50. They should not have died at this young of age,” said Kahaly.
This past summer, President Obama signed into law health care for Marines and dependents who could prove they had spent at least a month on the base and suffer certain health problems.
A mom who lost son and suspects the contaminated water played a role says it would be nice for someone to come forward with an apology.
“It would not change anything, an apology is always nice,” said Lamb.