Year in Review: Top military stories during 2017

ONSLOW COUNTY, N.C. (WNCT)–During 2017, our military community faced tragedy, controversy and tough questions about the future.  From the KC 130 crash in July to military benefits for those affected by toxic water aboard Camp Lejeune to the ban on transgender troops. WNCT took a look back at the year in review.

July 11, 2017, was a day that deeply affected the East when a KC 130 T crashed in Mississippi.

“On board were 16 great Americans from the United States Marine Corps and the United States Navy,” BGen. Bradley James, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, said during a press conference at the time.

It took only 2 days before the names of those lives lost started to trickle out  Seven from the Second Raider Battalion at Camp Lejeune were on board.

The East rallied together by setting up memorials and holding vigils.

“To lose them from home, it gets you,” Ami Little, a Jacksonville resident, said during a memorial service. “It hits you right to the core.”

As the widows and families came to grips with the loss of their loved ones, in the aftermath one question remained: How could something like this have happened, again?

The crash wasn’t the first tragedy to affect Camp Lejeune Marines in 2017.

In January President Obama announced billions of dollars in disability benefits for those affected by toxic water aboard base from the 1950’s to 1980’s.

“I could never say it’s too little, but it’s definitely too late for a lot of people who are already dead,” MSgt. (Ret.) Jerry Ensminger, whose family was affected by the toxic water, said after the decision was made.

For decades, hundreds of thousands of Marines and their families were exposed to the toxic water, many dying from resulting cancers and illnesses.

“It’s the right thing to do for those who served in the military,” Rep. Walter Jones, (R) NC-3rd, said.

While it was a good first step, many veterans said it wasn’t enough as they waited for payouts.

From toxic water to transgender troops, in a controversial move that made headlines, President Trump announced in July that transgender troops would no longer be allowed to serve.

He fired off tweets banning them from all branches. The decision caused a massive uproar from all corners of the political playing field

“If you’re qualified to serve and ready to serve you shouldn’t be banned from the military,” Sen. Tim Kaine, (D) Va., said.

Others disagreed.

“I don’t want to take time and treasure on a surgery or a hormonal replacement,” Rep. Ralph Abraham, (R) LA-5th, said at the time.

In early December 2017, a federal judge blocked President Trump’s ban, which means transgender troops can enlist beginning 2018.

Advancements to Camp Lejeune’s Naval Hospital signaled better care for Marines and Sailors during 2017.

The hospital transitioned into a medical center in May, complete with a level three trauma center to handle emergencies

“Being a medical center means you have things like neurosurgery and you have all kinds of different subspecialties,” Capt. James Hancock, C.O. of the Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune, said during a ceremony.

In an unprecedented move, officials decided to open up the trauma center to the surrounding community.

“It speaks to our readiness in any sort of major conflict,” Sen. Thom Tillis, (R)-NC, said. “It’s really a coming together of a great opportunity for the community.”

The first trauma center in the far East will mean more opportunities to save lives.

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