There is a saying “Once a Marine, always a Marine” and that no doubt applies to Kerrville resident Frank Mousser, but his time in the United States Marine Corps was marked by both great adventures and tragedy.
Mousser was stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina from 1982 to 1988… the height of the period in which concentrations of toxic chemicals in the base’s drinking water poisoned thousands of Marines and their families and many officials who worked on the base.
Mousser joined the Marines after high school and went to basic training at Parris Island, SC He was assigned to a 2nd Marine Division field artillery unit stationed at Camp Lejeune. In October 1983, he was deployed to the island of Grenada during Operation Urgent Fury as part of the US invasion force. The deployment lasted only five days, then he was sent with his unit to Beirut, Lebanon, during the NATO peacekeeping intervention. He had only been in Beirut for two months when he fell ill.
“My story started in Beirut when I developed a major kidney hemorrhage. I was evacuated to Wiesbaden, Germany, to the military hospital (Amelia Earhart Hospital) and spent three months in treatment,” said Moser said.
He underwent six or seven exploratory surgeries and was diagnosed with hematuria, a condition that causes blood in the kidneys.
“It was really visible when I was evacuated from Lebanon, but later the bleeding was reduced to micro-bleeding and I spent most of my life with a diagnosis of microscopic haematuria,” said Moser said. “It looked like I had a chemical burn inside my bladder, but they didn’t know the source initially.”
Mousser later said he found out the Marine Corps knew about the toxic chemicals in Camp Lejeune’s drinking water, but tried to cover it up.
In 1988, when he left the Marines, he received an honorable discharge, but not a medical discharge. Originally from Hawaii, Mousser moved to Cerritos, Calif., after leaving the service and went to work in the auto industry as a service advisor and other aspects of auto sales.
His wife was from Mansfield, Texas, and they eventually decided to move to Texas and he continued to work in the auto sales business. He came to Kerrville to work temporarily for Cecil Atkission and fell in love with the Hill Country. He moved the family permanently to Kerrville in 2003 and went to work at Del Rio Motors on Junction Hwy., which is part of the Atkission Motors family.
“One day, ‘out of the blue’, about seven years ago, I started getting notifications from the Marine Corps that I had possibly been exposed to toxic drinking water at Camp Lejeune. I was caught off guard,” Mousser said.
They asked for his medical history and they sent all kinds of information about what to look for if he had any problems.
“It was weird because three years later I started having problems with hematuria again. So based on the information that was sent to me, I registered with the VA (Veteran’s Administration) for medical benefits. I had always had private insurance rather than using the VA medical benefits that I qualified for,” he said.
Mousser said Dr. Rockwell, a urologist at Kerrville VA Medical Center, diagnosed him with a golf ball-sized tumor in his right kidney in August 2020.
“The quality of care they gave me here in Kerrville and the surgeons at Audie Murphy VA Hospital in San Antonio were excellent. Dr. Rockwell saved my life. At 4 p.m. on August 26, 2020, my life changed. I was looking at this image of the tumor on the x-ray and they immediately sent me to Audie Murphy,” Mousser said.
Audie Murphy’s doctors determined that the cancerous tumor was a “suspected service-related disability” and that he most likely contracted the cancer from drinking contaminated drinking water while stationed at Camp Lejeune.
“They did the operation quite quickly and removed the kidney. Now I have to get tested regularly (at first every 90 days, but now every six months) to make sure the cancer doesn’t come back. I’m going to have to do this for the rest of my life,” Mousser said. Mousser was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD) in his other kidney and was placed on the kidney transplant list by the VA. If no transplant is available, he may need to undergo kidney dialysis.
Mousser has hired a New York law firm that is representing hundreds of other Camp Lejeune victims in a class action lawsuit related to the Camp Lejeune issue.
The victims formed an advocacy group, “The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten” and lobbied Congress to pass legislation providing compensation not only to servicemen who lived at Camp Lejeune between August 1953 and December 1987, but also their families and civilian workers who lived and worked on the base, about one million people.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act was introduced in Congress in 2021 but did not pass. The effort was renewed, and the legislation was approved by an 86-11 vote in the Senate on August 2. President Biden signed the legislation on August 10, 2022. A number of major law firms across the country are advertising on television for clients who may be eligible for benefits under the new law.
“This law is unprecedented because they have done nothing like it for Vietnam veterans who have been impacted by exposure to Agent Orange, a chemical used to defoliate the jungles of Southeast Asia during Vietnam War. They didn’t get that kind of help, even though, in my opinion, they should have,” Mousser said.
“I was proud to serve my country and be a Marine, but now I’m really disappointed that they covered up the water contamination issue at Camp Lejeune for so long. It’s shameful.
Mousser said the shocking part of the legislation is that the government gives Marines the option of receiving compensation, but there is a hidden penalty for the recipient.
The new law approved up to $22 billion in benefits, but attorneys receive an average of 40% of total claims payouts for handling the case, according to research by Mousser.
Mousser learned that the government uses the concept of “double dipping” on recipients of funds. If the beneficiary is already receiving VA benefits, their settlement is reduced by the amount they have already received over the years.
“It’s despicable,” Mousser said. “Let’s say you get $100,000 in the settlement and you already got $60,000 in VA benefits before, and then you pay $40,000 to the attorney, that means you’ll have next to nothing left when it’s all over.” do. The fact that they tried to cover it up and then make this unprecedented settlement and then when all the details come out you find out you get nothing. Lawyers earn the only real money from the settlement.
Mousser said the publicity of the settlement leads people to believe that Camp Lejeune victims and their families will be cared for when in reality, when all is said and done, it can cost the victim money. He said he was unaware of any money that would have been paid to victims at this time. He wrote a letter to Texas Senator Ted Cruz expressing his concerns about the new legislation.
“It can take two or three years before someone receives benefits. Some of the victims who were on the base in the 1950s are already over 80 years old. Do you think any of these people will ever get anything? I feel sorry for the Marines who lost their children…this money will never bring those children back,” Mousser added.
The initial push for the settlement came from MSgt. Jerry Ensiminger who lost his daughter to leukemia. He testified before Congress and told them about the children’s cemetery outside Camp Lejeune and brought the issue to the attention of advocacy groups that work with veterans.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Mousser said, “we appreciate everything they’ve done, but they should have told us from the start. I told my wife years ago that if anything happened to me, go to Camp Lejeune. I’m not going to leave at sunset with the money I get from the colony. I would just return it to the VA due to the good medical care I received.
Construction of Camp Lejeune began in April 1941, and the base officially opened in September 1942. It was named after the 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps, John A. Lejeune, upon his death. For a brief period at the start of World War II, it served as a training camp for Marines. Water wells drilled on the base provided drinking water to residents of the base and surrounding areas. For many years, toxic chemicals have been dumped or buried near the base’s water wells. The top three chemicals found in water, and the basis for lawsuits and legislation, included benzene (a solvent used for several different purposes), trichlorethylene (a degreaser) and perchlorethylene (a dry-cleaning solvent ). More than 70 chemicals have been identified in the base’s drinking water with toxins at concentrations 240 to 3,400 times allowed by safety standards. Wells determined to contain the toxic chemicals are no longer in use.
Camp LeJeune is a 156,000 acre base near Jacksonville, North Carolina with 14 miles of beach making it a major base for amphibious assault training for Marines and it is located between two major ports in deep water, which allows rapid deployment, if necessary. Currently, military forces from around the world, including NATO countries, come to train at Camp Lejeune.