WASHINGTON — Thirty minutes into a new documentary film about one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history, a male breast cancer survivor describes the faith that exists among veterans of Camp Lejeune that justice will be done.
"We're in every town across America," Mike Partain of Tallahassee says in the film. "We're in every town, in every city and every state. And every one of us has a congressman and a senator." Partain, who was born at Camp Lejeune, had a one-inch cancerous tumor inside his right breast that was removed in May 2007.
Semper Fi: Always Faithful illustrates the overwhelming odds in fighting the Defense Department, Congress and powerful special interests over the historic water contamination at the North Carolina Marine base. The two men at the film's center, Partain and veteran Marine drill instructor Jerry Ensminger, remain skeptical of the powerful operators inside the Beltway. Ensminger's 9-year-old daughter, Janey, died from cancer in 1985.
The film will be shown tonight on Capitol Hill as lawmakers host a screening in hopes of swaying their peers to pass legislation to help victims of the contamination. Rachel Libert, who made the film along with Tony Hardmon, said this week that she wanted a broad story about the regulation of toxic chemicals and the Defense Department's role as the nation's largest polluter.
Bills filed in the House of Representatives and Senate would provide health care to any Camp Lejeune veteran or family member with illnesses related to the contamination. A vote on the Senate bill is expected in the Veterans Affairs Committee next week.