Daughter haunted by whether father's illness was caused by Camp Lejeune water

Nov. 8—From the 1950s through the mid-1980s, water at and around Camp Lejeune, a Marine base on the coast of North Carolina, was contaminated with numerous carcinogenic and harmful chemicals.

In the years since, the contamination has been corrected, but as many as 1 million servicemen and women and civilians were affected by the toxic water, according to the CDC.

Jimmy Anderson Blankenship Williams was one of the men stationed there. His daughter, Amanda Parker, and his widow, Delores Green, are now fighting for justice after Williams suffered from illnesses they say were connected to the water.

"These people defended our country," Parker said. "Not just my dad, but there are other people who are sick that defended our country. That's just wrong. I'm going to fight it until Hell freezes over. I'm doing this for my dad because my dad suffered and I saw that."

Parker said that her father joined the Marines around the time she was born and was stationed at Camp Lejeune for eight weeks during his basic training.

After that, he was sent to Groton, Connecticut, where he was stationed.

"He started getting sick right when we went to Connecticut," Green said, adding that it hadn't even been a year since his exposure.

Williams, who was a military police officer, dealt with numerous illnesses including pancreatitis, swelling of the liver, grand mal seizures and a change in his behavior.

The illnesses led to numerous hospital stays, including a lengthy stay at the VA hospital in Connecticut during the family's time there.

"He was in the hospital at the VA for a straight month. They didn't know what was wrong with him," Parker said.

After his time in the military, Williams returned to Haywood County with his family, but something had changed. Parker and Green said he began drinking to deal with the pain.

"He drank because he was hurting so bad," Green said.

But Parker still has fond memories of her dad.

"Sitting in front of the TV watching the Dallas Cowboys," she said. "He loved the Dallas Cowboys."

His widow said that she loved the time they got to spend outside together.

"We liked to walk in the rain," Green said. "It was our thing. And we loved to fish and go camping."

Then, on April 18, 1984, Williams drowned.

Parker said this was always strange to her for numerous reasons. Her father was a great swimmer and had served as a lifeguard in the past. He had removed his clothes and folded them on the bank, but did not remove his wedding band and watch like he usually did. And he had sat her down a few weeks prior and gave her what she called "the talk," a conversation that Parker said shouldn't have come for many years.

She said that later on, her mother would tell her that her dad had been getting more sick leading up to this.

"Before he drowned, come to find out, he only had maybe a year, year-and-a-half to live," Parker said.

Fast forward to present time and Parker is fighting to get more answers and justice for her father's pain. She was contacted about a potential settlement for those who served at Camp Lejeune, but she has faced numerous hurdles and red tape.

"It's like wall after wall," Parker said.

She filled out paperwork to get her father's military records and was told that they'd be ready in a week or two at most. After calling back two months later, she was told it would take between seven and eight months to get the records.

"They're telling me it'll take me 7-8 months to get my dad's military records. Why? I shouldn't have to fight for my dad's records," Parker said.

Now, Parker is stuck waiting for a resolution. But she still wants answers. The effect she believes the water had on her father sent ripples through her life.

"If the water hadn't poisoned by dad, it could've been different for my life, my mother's life," she said.

Being raised by a single mom for much of her childhood made things tough.

"Mom was alone," Parker said. "Dad died. She did the best she could."

But most importantly, Parker is thankful for the time she did get with her father before he passed away.

"I thank God I got to spend some time with him before he did die — actual time, just him and I," she said.