CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – 27 Investigates first told you the story of former Marine Dave Metzler, formerly of Jackson Township, who’s fighting for benefits his daughter claims are rightfully his.
WKBN has heard from other Marines since the story aired. Now, First News brings you a follow-up with a former Marine from Canfield who said serving near Lejeune helped him get health benefits.
Canfield’s Bruce Kirkland is part of a family full of Marines. His son, Ken, Sr., and grandson, Ken, Jr., also served.
After graduating from Austintown Fitch High School in 1956, Bruce Kirkland spent time at Camp Geiger and the Marine Corps Air Station at New River, both of which are part of the Camp Lejeune complex.
“I was across the bay. I was at New River, which is right across the creek from Camp Lejeune, and this is where this water contamination came in, because everyone on that area,” Kirkland said.
He drank the same water for 30 years, from 1953 to 1987, and the Marines now admit it: The drinking water around Camp Lejeune was contaminated.
After his discharge in 1959, Kirkland drove a truck for 40 years. When he retired, he applied for health benefits through Veterans Affairs and twice was denied.
“They take the position my medical problems are not service-related,” Kirkland said. “I was on active duty for three years. I was considered a Cold War veteran, even though we’re all combat veterans.”
But later, when he told VA officials he had served near Camp Lejeune, Bruce Kirkland’s health benefits were granted. Kirkland said it was because of the water contamination issue.
The situation of ex-Marine Dave Metzler, formerly of Jackson Township, is different. He has applied for benefits directly related to the Camp Lejeune water contamination.
Kirkland’s days at Camp Lejeune, he said, were simply the clincher for health care.
One reason Bruce Kirkland was originally denied health benefits was because he made too much money. But a new law allowed veterans who served at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days, from 1953 to 1987, to become eligible.
If you served at Camp Lejeune during the years in question, you may be eligible for health benefits, too.