Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Lou Freshwater and the tragedy of Camp Lejeune

Twelve-year-old Lou Freshwater in the front yard of her military base home in Camp Lejeune.

I've never met Lou Freshwater but she's a good friend of mine, a smart-as-a-whip writer with a gentle heart made of glass and gold.

As a child, she lived for three years or so in Camp Lejeune, a U.S. Marine training base now known as being one of the worst water contamination stories in American history, right up there, or should I say down there, with Love Canal and Hinkley, California (the water contamination story made famous in the movie Erin Brockovich).

Her mother has been diagnosed with, not one, but two types of acute leukemia. Genetic testing revealed the cause of her illness was exposure to the chemical benzene. In a heart-wrenching story from U.S. news magazine show Nightline, "the improbably named" Mary Freshwater talks about Camp Lejeune, her cancer and the loss of two babies from birth defects attributed to water contamination.

She's not the only victim, of course. Thousands, no, countless people drank the poisoned water at this military base. Untold numbers of people have gotten sick and/or died from the effects.

Through Lou's blog posts and her talent as a writer, my friend is making sense of what might otherwise be just another blip on the evening news. She gives a face to the tragedy; makes it real.

I'm telling you about it because Lou's story, and the story of Camp Lejeune, needs to be shared. She is writing a series of posts about the camp but this one is a good place to start: Poisoned by Your Own Government. Make sure you watch the You Tube video – it has been blocked on Lou's website, but if you follow the link to You Tube you can see photos of Lou as a child, as well as her mom with a tell-tale kerchief on her head.

When I first read Lou's post a few days ago, I didn't have time to watch the video. So I watched it this morning and it had such an impact on me that I'm writing this to you now. I hope you find time to visit Lou's blog and maybe share the story on your own blog. It's the only way people will get the medical treatment they deserve and it's the only way the the military will own up to what it did and defend the veterans who defended their country.


  1. Powerful, sad, and horrific. Thanks for spreading the word. Peace...

  2. The more time distance there is between now and when such a tragedy happened, the easier it is to ignore. Thanks for bringing this back to the forefront.

  3. Unbearable. Nothing makes me madder than when they try to cover things up, at any expense, and take no responsibility. Man... too upsetting.

  4. This is tragic. It never stops. I tried to go over and send Lou my best wishes, but her blog seems now to be private. Is it still Baby's Black Balloon? Anyway, I couldn't get in to write a note. My thoughts are certainly with her and her mom. Lou (though I, too, have never met her) seems to me to be just as you describe.

  5. How is it that I've made it to this age and have never heard of Camp Lejeune's water contamination? I have heard of the base but I thought it was just decommissioned and closed.

  6. Nothing surprises me any more and this certainly doesn't. My high school boyfriend became a Marine and trained at Camp Lejeune.

  7. I was in a Native village in the Kuskokwim delta of Alaska for three years. North of the village was an active gold mine; There was an old abandon molybdenum mine also to the north: to the south there was once a platinum mine. There was a lot of birth defects and medical problems in the village and I believe the river water was unfit to drink. This same situation exist across Alaska. My wife and I distilled our water while in the village.
    the Ol'Buzzard

  8. I've been a fan of Lou's writing and admired her spirit. Add 'inspiring' to her list of attributes.


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