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Poughkeepsie Journal

Marist Students Skip Sand, Offer Help

By Alexis Lukes

22 March 2005
Copyright © 2005 Poughkeepsie Journal. All rights reserved.

A group of Marist College seniors wants to spend Spring Break on a mission, not a beach.

Maura Clancy, Melissa Mayfield and Amy McHugh have begun work on a project that focuses on Vieques, an island off the coast of Puerto Rico.

At the beginning of World War II in 1941, the United States used Vieques as a home for Camp Garcia and the Naval Ammunition Facility, two Naval bases. Throughout the 60-plus years of U.S. occupation, Vieques was used as a place to test weapons and bombs.

Many U.S. citizens are unaware of the military occupation of Vieques.

"Our goal is to make Americans aware of the damage that was done," Clancy said.

Coverage of the crisis in Vieques peaked when the bombing came to an end in May, 2003.

The Marist seniors want Americans to be informed again.

"A lot of people were interested in it then, but it has diminished," McHugh said. "We just want to raise awareness again."

Clancy said the group is not trying to point fingers, though.

"The main idea is not to condemn the Navy now, but to figure out where to go from here," she said. "The island needs better health care and to be decontaminated."

Clancy and McHugh will travel to Vieques during spring break. They will conduct interviews with local citizens, as well as with Robert Rabin, director of the Committee for Rescue and Development of Vieques.

Hope to raise awareness

When they return, they hope to put together a news piece for the radio. They are hoping the broadcast will open the eyes of Americans and will inspire others to help.

"Even though this was a huge victory for the citizens of Vieques, they still have many problems due to the years of destruction," Clancy said.

Many scientists and doctors believe that the effects of the bombing are still being felt on the island. Cases of cancer are becoming more numerous, and researchers claim that toxins from the years of testing have affected people through both air and food supplies.

"They have virtually no health care available on the island," Clancy said. "Anyone with cancer must travel on a long ferry ride to the main island to receive chemotherapy."


For information about Vieques, visit or call Amy McHugh at 845-575-4018.

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