(WFLA) – Like thousands of other former Marines who served at Camp Lejeune, Bob Miranda-Boulay suffers a long list of serious and life-threatening illnesses that he attributes to the toxic water that tainted wells at that training base in North Carolina over a period of 34 years.
“This was the Marine Corps that did this to us,” Boulay said.
Boulay insists he enlisted out of patriotism, but now feels betrayed by the Corps.
“I wanted to make a difference,” Bouley said. “I love my country and I wanted to do the right thing. I wanted to be a Marine.”
Boulay says he was an amateur boxer in perfect health prior to his two months of infantry training at Camp Lejeune. About 30 years later he now suffers from liver and kidney disease and has survived a brain tumor. He takes a dozen medications to make it through the day and activated a pacemaker at bedtime to keep from dying in his sleep.
For years Boulay’s various maladies puzzled doctors who at one point chalked up his troubles to Lyme Disease. Now, Boulay’s doctor attributes his medical ills to the chemical-laced drinking water he consumed during training at Lejeune.
“Eventually like my doctor says I’m going lose the battle,” Boulay said. I’m only going hold it off so long.”
Boulay wore the same uniform, crawled through the same mud and drank the same tainted water at Camp Lejeune as regular Marines, but doesn’t qualify for any benefits under the Camp Lejeune Family Act of 2012 because he was a Marine Reservist who was never called up for active duty.
“I don’t count,” Boulay said.
And he’s not alone.
When Boulay trained at Lejeune in 1985 there were 800-900 other reservists there according to the best estimates of the Marine Corps. If you multiply that number for the recognized duration of the contamination problem from 1953-1987, as many as 30,000 Marine Reservists may have suffered the same kind of exposure to benzene, TCE, vinyl chloride and other cancer-causing chemicals in the drinking water.
Due to a quirk in the law none of those former Marine Reservists qualifies for VA benefits unless they were later called up for active duty.
“That’s what it boils down to,” said Boulay. “And probably half of them have passed away by now, so they have no voice.”
There is an effort in Congress spearheaded by Pinellas Republican Congressman Gus Bilirakis to set things right. Bilirakis introduced House Resolution 3954 last year to included Marine Reservists in the VA benefits awarded to Marines exposed to the poison water at Camp Lejeune. But that measure remains stalled in a House committee handling veteran’s affairs.