BRADENTON -- Michael Nazario, a 52-year-old former member of the U.S. amateur boxing team who served in the U.S. Marines from 1983 to 1986, could not understand why he has had so many health issues.
Bulemia nervosa, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, and skin conditions were just some of the issues with which he struggled. He went through many jobs and several divorces.
A couple of years ago, he received a letter from the U.S. Navy advising that he might be among those who served at Camp Lejeune, N.C., suffering from the effects of contaminated drinking water.
Anyone who served or lived at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 was potentially exposed to drinking water contaminated with industrial solvents, benzene and other chemicals, the Department of Veteran Affairs advises.
"This chemical exposure may have led to adverse health conditions," the VA said.
Nazario is planning to attend a public meeting by The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in Tampa Dec. 4-5 on the health effects of toxic water contamination at Camp Lejeune.
The meeting will be held at Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, 2900 Bayport Drive, Tampa. For more information or registration, visit atsdr.cdc.gov/sites/lejeune/capmeetings.html.
Nazario believes the health issues that he has been dealing with stem from Camp Lejeune.
He went to the VA for an evaluation in 2014, and in May 2015 was rated 70 percent disabled, providing him with a pension and regular healthcare.
"People started coming down with all these things and no one knew why," Nazario said. "That's what happens when you put chemicals in people's bodies without them knowing."
In 2012, President Barack Obama signed the Camp Lejeune Veterans and Family Act to provide medical care and screening for Marines and their families.
Deb Ferreira, Nazario's fiance, knows first-hand how he has suffered.
"The stuff he goes through, the money can't pay for it," Ferreira said. "It's like a lion roaring at me. I call him the 'perfect storm.'"
Ferreira believes her fiance should be rated 100 percent disabled, and Nazario said he is appealing his VA rating to get it upgraded.
Asked why he did not apply earlier for help from the VA, Nazario said he just didn't know that he could.
Even though he has suffered with health issues, Nazario has no hard feelings towards the Marines.
"I am very proud of my service and I would do it again in a heartbeat," he said. "Honor to me doesn't have an expiration date."