The Toxic Homefront: As Marine Families Fall Ill, Some Are Accusing the Corps Of Negligence

Last December, Noah Brletich was jolted from a deep sleep by his own heart, beating so fast and hard, it felt as if it would explode. Brletich, born with just three chambers in his heart instead of the usual four, is familiar with cardiac abnormalities, but this was different.

“Any time you experience something out of the ordinary, it scares the hell out of you,” the 21-year-old told Task & Purpose. “Even regular sicknesses, like the flu, send me to the emergency room.”

Brletich, the son of retired Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 5 Mike Brletich and Lesa Brletich, has been battling life-threatening health issues since before he was born. He underwent his first open-heart surgery at two months, and by age 2 ½, had two more. At 3, he was so ill, the Make A Wish Foundation granted his family a trip to Disney World.

Fortunately, an experimental device saved Noah’s life, and the Brletiches thought the worst was behind them. But nearly a decade later, when another son slid hard into a base at a baseball game and began peeing blood, they learned that he, too, had a birth defect: He had been born with only one kidney. Then there’s their oldest son, Michael, who proudly served as a Marine like his dad, but later spiraled into mental illness. He is serving 10 years in prison for crimes committed during a psychotic break, an episode the family believes may also be related to Michael’s exposure to toxins as a child.