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Film Review from Tribeca Film Festival 2011: Semper Fi - Always Faithful
by Karen Pecota

Devoted Marine drill instructor, Marine Corps Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger lived and breathed the Corps motto: Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful) for twenty-five years. Ensminger was proud of his military accomplishments, his career and the security if provided for him and his family. His wonderful life came to a crashing halt at the untimely death of his nine-year-old daughter, Janey. She suffered from a strange type of leukemia that appeared inconceivable for a healthy child to encounter and at the rate if consumed her body. Ensimger was disturbed by the lack of information the doctors were able to share regarding the strain of the disease. There were too many missing links in Janey’s situation that was baffling. Ensminger was compelled to dig deeper for answers and uncovered the culprit in Janey’s death and several other military children. His personal investigation led to the discovery of a Marine Corps cover-up of one of the largest water contamination incidents in U.S. history.

Devastated by the information that his employer had been withholding information for over thirty years of water contamination at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base, Ensimger could not stand idle. The drinking water was highly contaminated by toxic chemicals and about one million Marines and their families were exposed to the high levels of carcinogens through the water. The wells were eventually closed but the military did not make the information public. Twenty-two years later very few of the Marines and their families who lived at Camp Lejeune know about the exposure. The responsibility shown from the U.S. Military to protect its own in this case comes with a price.

Discussed by the military’s ignorance Ensimger leads a coalition to fight for justice. Documentarians Rachel Libert and Tony Hardmon* use the lens of a camera to help Ensimger in his fight to hold the government accountable for the travesty caused to millions of the men and women who done their duty as military personnel—always faithful, Semper Fi.(Karen Pecota)

*Semper Fi: Always Faithful won Best Editing in a Documentary Feature