Serendipity is often the starting point for documentary films and this was certainly the case with my film Semper Fi: Always Faithful. Nearly four years ago, my Co-Director Tony Hardmon and I were researching a documentary film about an innovative public health program when we met the sister of a man named Jerry Ensminger. She told us that her brother was in the process of exposing water contamination at a Marine Corps Base and she was looking for filmmakers to document it. We were skeptical but she laid out this incredible story of intrigue, heartbreak and betrayal. It piqued our interest enough that we showed up in Washington, DC two weeks later and met a gruff retired Marine on the mission of his life.
It was late spring 1983 and my then six year old daughter Janey was diagnosed with Strep throat, the doctor prescribed antibiotics as a treatment. The only problem was that the antibiotics didn’t seem to work, Janey’s strep throat persisted for nearly a month and a half and each time we took her back to the Naval hospital the doctors would prescribe a different antibiotic. On a very hot Sunday afternoon in July 1983 Janey developed a very high fever, the standard fever reducing analgesics weren’t working, so I took off Janey’s shirt to place cold compresses on her torso. It was then that I noticed little blemishes under her skin which resembled small hickies and they were all over her torso. This was a new and frightening development and I immediately put Janey in the car and took her to the base hospital’s urgent care clinic.