"Dear mom and dad, I can not express my apologies in words for the pain I have caused you but I beg for your forgiveness. I want you to know that I loved you both and still do but the pain of life was too much for me to deal with. Again, I beg of you not to blame yourself because I lived a happy childhood and a great life thanks to you. Unfortunately I am weak and cannot deal with the emotional pain. It feels as if I lost the most important part of my life that will ever exist."
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Jeffrey’s father Kevin wonders what his son meant by that last line “We don’t know if what he meant was his innocence,” says Mr. Lucey. “As parents we tried to protect him from pain but over there he was immersed in it.”
Jeffrey spent 5 months in Iraq with the 6th Motor Transport Battalion and came home safe and sound, his parents thought, in July of 2003. But in his journal Jeffrey was “writing down how he saw dead people, not dead soldiers,” says Mr. Lucey. “Somebody at Camp Pendleton said, ‘if you keep talking like that, you’ll not be able to go back home. You’ll have to stay here from two to four months.’” His sister’s wedding was coming up, so on the debriefing questionnaire beside the box that asked if psychiatric help was needed, Jeffrey ticked “no”. He just wanted to go home.
Soon after Jeffrey got back people started noticing that something was wrong. One friend who’d known him since high school, an active-duty Marine who’d served with him in Iraq put it this way “His attitude changed, we used to play a lot of sports before and then after Iraq I’d call him and say do you want to shoot some hoops or something and he never would.”
He refused to take off the dogtags that he wore around his neck, tags he said he taken from two Iraqi soldiers. Jeffrey told his father he’d been ordered to shoot the two unarmed men at close range. “Jeff had described how his gun was shaking and he looked at the eyes of one of the men and he thought, God this is someone’s son, he could be somebody’s father.” says Kevin Lucey. Then, as Jeffrey told it, someone shouted “pull the fucking trigger Lucey”. Later, back home, he told his sister he felt like a murderer.
Jeffrey kept trying to keep it together. He enrolled in college but at times he was paranoid; he thought that people where staring at him. A heightened startled reflex made him jump. He was embarrassed and so he stopped going to school, his drinking got worse, he barely slept and spent hours hold up in his bedroom.
He’d been seeing a private therapist but by last May, his parents were so concerned they had him committed to the local VA hospital against his wishes. “We told them about all his symptoms” says Mr. Lucey. “He had auditory hallucinations, visual hallucinations and felt hands touching him at night.” After just four days the hospital released him.
On June 3rd, Jeffrey was in an accident and totaled the family’s vehicle. A couple of days later, Mr. Lucey says the family tried to have him re-admitted to the VA hospital, but they were turned away.
In late June four days before he died, Jeffrey seemed to have a break-through. He and his father found a local veterans counseling center and the family was encouraged when the staff came up with a proposal that Jeffrey would agree to. “The plan was, the therapist was going to come two days a week to our home and see Jeff here and we were going to continue to pay for the private therapist and Jeff felt good about it.”
The first home visit with the vet center counselor was scheduled for June 22 at around 5 pm. Mr. Lucey says his son was feeling hopeful. But something went wrong. When Kevin Lucey got home at quarter to 7, his son was dead, hanging by his neck in the basement. “I can still feel Jeffrey in my arms as I cut him down,” he says “I tied to support him with my knee…he looked like he was sleeping.” Mr. Lucey says he found the Iraqi dogtags lying across Jeffrey’s bed. Later, the family learned that the counselor never showed. It seems he’d gotten lost on the way.
Jeffrey Lucey told his parents a number of harrowing stories about his time in Iraq, some of which were reported in their local newspaper two weeks ago. The United States Marine Corps tells This Is Rumor Control that as a result of that story it has launched an investigation that is on-going. Captain Pat Kerr says their preliminary finding is that Lucey’s claim that he was forced to shoot the unarmed Iraqi soldiers, is “without merit” but Captain Kerr was unable to tell us how they arrived at that conclusion. Captain Kerr confirmed that the 6th Motor Battalion was moving POW’s around Iraq and a source who served with Jeffrey tells us he knows that Jeffrey’s specific company was involved in the transport of prisoners.
Jeffrey never told his Marine buddy the story about the killings while the two were stationed in Iraq. Once back home, his friend says Jeffrey wouldn’t talk to him about the war at all and that he kept pretending things were O.K. “He just sounded like he was sad,” this young Marine says “I’m just guessing the reason he didn’t tell me (about his troubles) was because he didn’t want me to be worried about him. I know he didn’t want to admit to his unit that he was seeing a psychologist. He didn’t want to be looked at as weak.”
The Marine Corps says it is determined to find out if Jeffrey Lucey was telling the truth about what he experienced in Iraq: a difficult task since the prime witness is dead. “In our defense, these accusations were made and we were never given the opportunity to state our side of the story.” says Captain Kerr. When reminded that Lance Corporal Jeffrey Lucey can’t give his side of the story either, Kerr said “I know that, I know that, but we didn’t kill him. I think everyone is very shaken up about what happened, including in the Marine Corps.”
Although he agrees the Marine Corps has an obligation to investigate atrocities, Wayne Smith, of the Alliance for Security, Washington, DC says he believes the corps primary focus should be on how it failed Jeffrey Lucey. “My concern is with this young man, this volunteer, this patriot who has obviously fallen through the cracks.” says Smith, a Vietnam veteran and former post-traumatic stress disorder counselor. “Even more tragically, the Marine Corps could not find a way to help him to overcome the guilt, the depression and feelings that he had. I can only say that there are other Marines and soldiers and sailors like him out there and it is reasonable for us as tax payers to ask the that military do the right thing and help them to cope with the impact of their service.”
As for Jeffrey’s parents, they worry that the Marine Corps investigation will overshadow the lessons to be learned from their son’s suicide. “We want people to be sensitive to the fact that these people can come home from Iraq, looking ok but be very, very damaged.” says Kevin Lucey. “PTSD is like a cancer that lays dormant and then explodes. We believed that whatever PTSD Jeffrey had, it wasn’t going to be fatal. That was a bad assumption.”
In the New Year, I will be reporting on the Marine Corps investigation into the atrocity allegations made by Jeffrey Lucey in the months before he died.
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Oct. 2, 2007 Update;
This photo is of a young man, Jeffrey Lucey, who became an early casualty of this ill-conceived war with Iraq. This gentle, good-looking, young man came from a loving home, yet, one day, after his encounter with the deaths of Iraqi innocence Jeffrey decided that this reality was just too painful. This dark page in young Jeffrey's life profoundly changed this young American man___As it has others.
I am unable, to this day, to read Jeffrey's words knowing this young life was about to be no more, not by his hand alone, but because of the deceit of this Whitehouse and the failures of the Congress! There's been Lies and broken promises by this and the last Congress. Insensitivity & insatiable greed killed Jeffrey Lucey and there are still more like Jeffrey who we hear little about! Lies, Corporate power, along with abuse of power by our own elected officials inflamed the masses, so in turn, these enemies of America could send our best and brightest to suffer the ravages of war!
This war with Iraq "Must" end! We must do what ever is possible to atone for this horror "We" created. All Americans have an obligation, certainly as Christians, to heal American and Iraqi lives caught up in this darkness! Young Jeffrey your earthly light may have gone out but the heavens shine on you because of your gentle heart__ "WE" will find a way to end this war and make all wars absolute!