FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Another Casualty of Bush’s War

Jeffrey Lucey is not a name that will not soon be forgotten by the more than 100 people who attended a memorial service for him at Holyoke Community College (HCC) in Western Massachusetts. Lucey, a Marine veteran of the Iraq war and a student at the college, committed suicide on June 22. He was 23.

As his father Kevin said at the memorial, Jeff’s death, while not officially listed as such, is another casualty showing the human costs of the war. Lucey joined the Marine Reserves at 18 because, as his parents told Amy Goodman of the left-wing radio program Democracy Now! he wanted to get the training and earn money for college.

He was called to active duty with the 6th Motor Transport Battalion in early 2003. By February, he was in Kuwait. One day after he celebrated his 22nd birthday, the invasion of Iraq began. Trained as a clerical specialist, he was reassigned to serve as a driver.

On April 18, 2003, Jeff wrote to Julianne Proulx, his girlfriend since 1997, that he had done “immoral things.” On his return to his parents’ home in July, however, he had seemed normal, and everyone was too happy to see him to suspect that something was terribly wrong. With those who knew him less intimately, Jeff maintained the façade of the good Marine until the very end.

Things really began to fall apart on Christmas Eve. While drunk, Lucey took two handmade Iraqi dog tags from around his neck, threw them at his younger sister, and told her that he felt like a murderer.

He never did tell his family the whole story of his experience in Iraq, only bits and pieces. It was horrific enough. He spoke of elderly people killed as they tried to run from Marines rolling into Nasariya.

He spoke of a small Iraqi boy, bloody and prone in the dusty street, shot in the head and the chest and still holding a small, bloodstained American flag in his hands. He spoke of his horror as an American tank lumbered down the street, how he had bolted from his own vehicle and, as gunfire rippled the sand around him, moved the tiny corpse to the sad sanctuary of a nearby alley.

He spoke of how he had been ordered to shoot two Iraqi prisoners. He remembered how he had looked into their eyes and hesitated, watching as they shook in terror, and thinking of their families. He remembered that an officer had shouted, “Pull the fucking trigger, Lucey!” He remembered shooting the soldiers and watching them die. He told his father that there were “other things” he did not want the family to know about.

For its part, the Marines dismissed Lucey’s allegation that he had been ordered to shoot Iraqi prisoners as “without merit”–but didn’t offer an explanation of how that conclusion was reached. Marine spokesperson Capt. Pat Kerr, however, has confirmed that Lucey’s battalion was engaged in transporting prisoners of war, according to one press report.

As Jeff spiraled toward self-destruction, he began to drink more and more. In early June, his desperate parents were able to arrange an involuntary commitment to a local veterans’ hospital, where Lucey complained that he was treated like “a prisoner.”

He was diagnosed as suffering from depression with secondary alcohol dependency–and was released after four days because, the hospital said, he was not a danger to himself or others. On the ride home, he told his parents that he had met with psychiatrists twice, both times briefly, and on the second occasion, the psychiatrist had seem preoccupied with other matters.

In many respects, Jeff’s fate followed a trajectory that is becoming all too familiar. As Nancy Lessin of Military Families Speak Out told Amy Goodman, “We have heard so much about what this military has learned in Vietnam [about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder], and how they’re doing it differently now. And we don’t see that at all. We see the same mistakes happening–mistakes that are, in fact, not mistakes at all. It’s really a way of denying this issue so they can keep as many warm bodies deployed and re-deployed.”

After Jeff’s death, his parents learned from the medical records kept during his involuntary confinement that he had told nurses of three different plans to kill himself–a drug overdose, suffocation or hanging. On June 22, he chose the last of these three methods, hanging himself with a hose in the basement of his parents’ home.

His father found the body of his only son when he got home from work shortly before 7 p.m. In one of the notes Jeff left behind, he begged his parents not to blame themselves “because I lived a happy childhood and a great life thanks to you. Unfortunately, I am weak and cannot deal with the pain. It feels as if I lost the most important part of my life that will ever exist.”

While the memorial service was not intended as a political event, virtually none of the speakers were able to ignore the implications of the war in Iraq, which is leaving behind the equivalent of human cluster bomblets who will be imploding and exploding for years and decades to come.

Perhaps no one addressed the political context of Jeff Lucey’s death as eloquently as Sean Lamory, Jeff’s friend for the last 14 years, an Air Force veteran, an HCC student and one of the main organizers of the campus memorial service. Noting that the burdens of the war in Iraq are falling more than ever before on reservists and National Guard members, Lamory observed that such soldiers “are stereotypically young men and women who join the military for free college and benefits.

“I see it right here at HCC, a school where a lot of students struggle financially and come out of class to see a fancy Hummer, surrounded by Marines in full-dress uniforms making all sorts of promises.” Lamory also quoted a New Yorker article noting that the suicide rate “among soldiers in Iraq is one-third higher than the Army’s historical average.”

Perhaps, he speculated, the rate is so high because “there’s somewhere around 15,000 Iraqi civilians dead, and our troops are having trouble finding the justice in that.”

MARK CLINTON and TONY UDELL write for the Socialist Worker.

 

More articles by:

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

May 27, 2019
John Grant
Congress is Being Punked: Will They Find Their Backbone?
Robert Fisk
The Evidence We Were Never Meant to See About the Douma Gas Attack
Basav Sen
The Terrifying Global Implications of Modi’s Re-Election
Peter Certo
Pardoning War Criminals is a Terrible Way to Honor Veterans
Howard Lisnoff
When War Crimes are Pardoned
Joe Emersberger
Guillaume Long on Ecuadorian President Moreno’s betrayal of Assange and the Citizens Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
Monsanto, Scientific Deception and Cancer
Elizabeth Keyes
Demonstrating for Assange in NYC or Life on Pluto
Mike Ferner
Another Empire’s Boot Stomps on Ireland
Lizzett Talavera
Toward a Culture of Animal Protection in Cuba
Ed Sanders
Monsanto is Evil: a Glyph
Elliot Sperber
The Snow Leopards of Central Park 
Weekend Edition
May 24, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Iran, Venezuela and the Throes of Empire
Melvin Goodman
The Dangerous Demise of Disarmament
Jeffrey St. Clair
“The Army Ain’t No Place for a Black Man:” How the Wolf Got Caged
Richard Moser
War is War on Mother Earth
Andrew Levine
The (Small-d) Democrat’s Dilemma
Russell Mokhiber
The Boeing Way: Blaming Dead Pilots
Rev. William Alberts
Gaslighters of God
Phyllis Bennis
The Amputation Crisis in Gaza: a US-Funded Atrocity
David Rosen
21st Century Conglomerate Trusts 
Jonathan Latham
As a GMO Stunt, Professor Tasted a Pesticide and Gave It to Students
Binoy Kampmark
The Espionage Act and Julian Assange
Kathy Deacon
Liberals Fall Into Line: a Recurring Phenomenon
Jill Richardson
The Disparity Behind Anti-Abortion Laws
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Chelsea Manning is Showing Us What Real Resistance Looks Like
Zhivko Illeieff
Russiagate and the Dry Rot in American Journalism
Norman Solomon
Will Biden’s Dog Whistles for Racism Catch Up with Him?
Yanis Varoufakis
The Left Refuses to Get Its Act Together in the Face of Neofascism
Lawrence Davidson
Senator Schumer’s Divine Mission
Thomas Knapp
War Crimes Pardons: A Terrible Memorial Day Idea
Renee Parsons
Dump Bolton before He Starts the Next War
Yves Engler
Canada’s Meddling in Venezuela
Katie Singer
Controlling 5G: A Course in Obstacles
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Beauty of Trees
Jesse Jackson
Extremist Laws, Like Alabama’s, Will Hit Poor Women the Hardest
Andrew Bacevich
The “Forever Wars” Enshrined
Ron Jacobs
Another One Moves On: Roz Payne, Presente!
Christopher Brauchli
The Offal Office
Daniel Falcone
Where the ‘Democratic Left’ Goes to Die: Staten Island NYC and the Forgotten Primaries   
Julia Paley
Life After Deportation
Sarah Anderson
America Needs a Long-Term Care Program for Seniors
Seiji Yamada – John Witeck
Stop U.S. Funding for Human Rights Abuses in the Philippines
Shane Doyle, A.J. Not Afraid and Adrian Bird, Jr.
The Crazy Mountains Deserve Preservation
Charlie Nash
Will Generation Z Introduce a Wizard Renaissance?
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail