Wealthy Frenchman

Monday, March 19, 2007

Death of a Marine

Jeffrey Lucey was 18 when he signed up for the Marine Reserves in December 1999. His parents, Kevin and Joyce Lucey of Belchertown, Mass., were not happy. They had hoped their son would go to college.

Jeffrey himself was ambivalent.

“The recruiter was a very smooth talker and very, very persistent,” Ms. Lucey told me in a call from Orlando, Fla., where she was on vacation with her husband and their two grown daughters last week. The conversation was difficult. Ms. Lucey would talk for a while, and then her husband would get on the phone.

“We see him everywhere,” Ms. Lucey said. “Every little dark-haired boy you see, it looks like Jeff. If we see a parent reprimanding a child, it’s like you want to go up and say, ‘Oh, don’t do that, because you don’t know how long you’re going to have him.’ ”

The war in Iraq began four years ago today. Fans at sporting events around the U.S. greeted the war and its early “shock and awe” bombing campaign with chants of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”

Jeffrey Lucey, who turned 22 the day before the war began, had a different perspective. He had no illusions about the glory or glamour of warfare. His unit had been activated and he was part of the first wave of troops to head into the combat zone.

A diary entry noted the explosion of a Scud missile near his unit: “The noise was just short of blowing out your eardrums. Everyone’s heart truly skipped a beat. ... Nerves are on edge.”

By the time he came home, Jeffrey Lucey was a mess. He had gruesome stories to tell. They could not all be verified, but there was no doubt that this once-healthy young man had been shattered by his experiences.

He had nightmares. He drank furiously. He withdrew from his friends. He wrecked his parents’ car. He began to hallucinate.

In a moment of deep despair on the Christmas Eve after his return from Iraq, Jeffrey hurled his dogtags at his sister Debra and cried out, “Don’t you know your brother’s a murderer?”

Jeffrey exhibited all the signs of deep depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Wars do that to people. They rip apart the mind and the soul in the same way that bullets and bombs mutilate the body. The war in Iraq is inflicting a much greater emotional toll on U.S. troops than most Americans realize.

The Luceys tried desperately to get help for Jeffrey, but neither the military nor the Veterans Administration is equipped to cope with the war’s mounting emotional and psychological casualties.

On the evening of June 22, 2004, Kevin Lucey came home and called out to Jeffrey. There was no answer. He noticed that the door leading to the basement was open and that the light in the basement was on. He did not see the two notes that Jeffrey had left on the first floor for his parents:

“It’s 4:35 p.m. and I am near completing my death.”

“Dad, please don’t look. Mom, just call the police — Love, Jeff.”

The first thing Mr. Lucey saw as he walked down to the basement was that Jeff had set up an arrangement of photos. There was a picture of his platoon, and photos of his sisters, Debra and Kelly, his parents, the family dog and himself.

“Then I could see, through the corner of my eye, Jeff,” said Mr. Lucey. “And he was, I thought, standing there. Then I noticed the hose around his neck.”

The Luceys hope that in talking about their family’s tragedy they will bring more attention to the awful struggle faced by so many troops suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other emotional illnesses. “We hear of so many suicides,” said Mr. Lucey.

Ms. Lucey added, “We thought that if we told other people about Jeffrey they might see their loved ones mirrored in him, and maybe they would be more aggressive, or do something different than we did. We didn’t feel we had the knowledge we needed and we lost our child.”

The Luceys are more than just concerned and grief-stricken. They’re angry. They’ve joined an antiwar organization, Military Families Speak Out, and they want the war in Iraq brought to an end. “That’s the only way to prevent further Jeffreys from happening,” Ms. Lucey said.

Mr. Lucey made no effort to hide his bitterness over the government’s failure to address many of the critical needs of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. His voice quivered as he said, “When we hear anybody in the administration get up and say that they support the troops, it sickens us.”


At 6:41 PM, Blogger buckethead said...

I am an Australian and ex soldier and I want to share some Australian experience with you dear folks. Mr and Mrs Lucey and you Montag.

These service men and women like Jeffery share common experiences that they universally pray their children will never know. The horror, the terror, the hurt and the pain, their guilt over the relief that they felt when they survived where their mates did not, that stays with them for as long as they live.

This is the issue I want to address this morning.

The trench warfare of World War I introduced the terms ‘Bomb Happy’ or ‘Shell Shock’ to our language. The authorities, of course, condemned those who could not endure the fighting; as “lacking moral fibre” and some men were executed on all sides of the conflict for what we now understand is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Our Politicians are all too willing to send us off to fight other people’s wars in the naïve hope that they can gain great and powerful friends.
They cloak themselves in the glory of battle honours hard won but they are most unwilling to accept their long term responsibility for the returned crippled, disfigured, blind and insane.

It is a foul, foul obscenity that cynical, manipulative old men can still today send boys into harm’s way to address the failures of leadership, policy, diplomacy and the incompetence of these same old men. Our newly imposed sedition laws forbid me from saying what I really think of this.

It is up to us, the people of Australians and Americans, to insist that the parliament (not just the executive) recognises it has the duty to provide ongoing psychological and health support for veterans, their wives and families.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the one thing that applies to all the campaigns Australians have been involved in over the last one hundred years. Unfortunately, it not only harms those directly affected, it harms those they love and reverberates through the generations and the community in general, like ripples on a pond.

My personal experience of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder began as a 10 year old, when my dad came home from the war in 1946. The trauma remains with me to this day.

My father, every night, in his troubled mind, relived his actions as a Sapper during the siege of Tobruk, and as a survivor of the El Alamein defeat of the Afrika Corps. He would cry and scream in his sleep. Awake he had violent, drunken rages fuelled by morphine and grog that resulted in abuse and brutality being heaped on my mother, my sisters and me.

From age eleven to fourteen I attempted to protect my family against this man who towered over me. A man who, in his distressed state, believed I was a Nazi that he needed to strike down. When he would attack my mother, I often knocked him unconscious with blows to his head using beer bottles, half house bricks and lumps of wood. Finally in 1950, my mum fled with my sisters from Sydney to Melbourne to avoid the possibility of me killing my own father.

Eight years later, I actually joined the Army, to learn from my own experience how and why my dad ended up the way he did. He died before I could tell him I was beginning to understand what war had done to him and why we had become a dysfunctional family. I never laid eyes on him or talked to him after we fled to Melbourne.

I tell you this story, to illustrate that these are the sorts of experiences that large numbers of ex-service men and women and their wives, husbands and loved ones have all suffered and continue to suffer today. Day by day these families experience sleep disturbance including nightmares, emotional detachment, 'flashbacks', mood swings, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, alcohol and other drug abuse.
Please reflect on the enormous price, physical and mental, that veterans and their families have paid, one way or another, directly or indirectly, down through the generations to defend our country so that we, here and now, can live in peace.

Lest we forget.

John Ward
15 Grosse Road
03 62921211


Post a Comment

<< Home

Executive MBA
Get An Executive MBA from Top MBA Schools