Kris Roberts believes his chronic health problems can be traced back
to the summer of 1981, when he was a U.S. Marine at the Futenma air
station in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture.
A superior officer ordered Roberts, other Marines and
Japanese workers to remove more than 100 steel drums buried near the
edge of the runway at the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. Liquid
spilled from some of the damaged containers, and a recent typhoon had
flooded the area near where the men worked. Roberts and his co-workers
not only had to remove the drums, but they also went neck-deep in the
Roberts served at Futenma from December 1980 to November
1981. After he was transferred to a base in the United States, he
developed various symptoms, such as asthma, heart problems and prostate
cancer. He retired from the Marines in 2002.
Now 60, Roberts serves as a member of the state House of Representatives in New Hampshire.
In 2009, Roberts asked for compensation for health damage
from the Veterans Affairs Department. He said his health problems were
likely caused by some chemical he came in contact with at a military
Three years ago, a doctor at the Veteran Affairs Department
told Roberts he had all the symptoms of someone who has been exposed to
Roberts believes that the drum containers he helped remove at
Futenma contained the defoliant that was used extensively in the
The U.S. government continues to argue that Agent Orange and
other defoliants were never stored, buried or used at Futenma, a major
base of operations during the war in Southeast Asia.
Roberts never saw combat in the Vietnam War, so he was
initially surprised by the doctor’s assessment. But he began thinking
about his experience at Futenma. He had taken a photo of the removal of
the steel drums.
“I had that feeling something was seriously wrong,” Roberts said.