WATERLOO — A woman afflicted with terminal cancer from contaminated water she was exposed to growing up on a military base in the late 1960s is now in hospice care and not expected to recover.
Her husband, friends and the Black Hawk County Veteran Affairs director are appealing for help to cover her funeral and other expenses the federal government, to date, would not cover.
Jonathan Cox, an administrator at the University of Northern Iowa Center for Urban Education, said his wife, Antonett “Toni” Cox, went into care at the Cedar Valley Hospice Home in Waterloo last weekend.
Antonett grew up at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where her father, decorated Vietnam veteran Thomas R. Jones, was based in the late 1960s. She grew up there while he served 13 months in Vietnam as a Navy corpsman with a Marine reconnaissance unit. Her condition was featured in a February 2017 Courier article.
She became approved for some assistance in April 2016. But the federal legislation allowing that aid did not provide for funeral expenses for affected family members of Camp LeJeune military personnel. Jonathan Cox indicated his wife took a downturn since November treatment.
“It may be a day, or two weeks. But it’s not going be a month,” Jon Cox said of his wife’s fate. “It really hurts me to have to reach out and ask for it,” referring to assistance. “It hurts me. But it’s not about me and how I feel. It’s about my wife. I have to focus on that.”
Despite dim prospects of success, Cox has written the undersecretary of memorial affairs for the U.S. Veterans Administration, appealing for help.
“The U.S. government recognized their negligence of contaminating the water which my wife had contact (with as) a child,” Cox wrote. “Expected funeral expenses are overwhelming and she deserves a proper burial due to the negligence of the government.”
Kevin Dill, executive director of the Black Hawk County Veteran Affairs Commission, invited anyone wishing to assist the Cox family to contact him at 291-2512 for more information. He has been working with the family for more than a year.
Jonathan Cox is a longtime UNI educator, administrator and former Panther basketball player. Two former students and UNI graduates, sisters-in-law Jessica and Olivia Cezar, have set up a Facebook page, “Support & Love for the Cox Family,” where individuals may donate securely online through PayPal.
According to information from the Disabled American Veterans, the Veterans Administration ruled in January 2017 any service member who served at least 30 consecutive days at Camp Lejeune between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987, “shall be presumed to have been exposed during such service to the contaminants in the water supply.”
Federal legislation passed in 2012 granted families and dependents health care from exposure to the Camp Lejeune water. U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa was a co-sponsor of that legislation.
Jonathan and Antonett Cox have an 11-year old son. Jonathan expressed gratitude for all the support his family has received from UNI and Waterloo Schools officials, Cedar Valley Hospice, the Cezars and the community.
“My glass is always going to be half full,” he said.