Thursday, August 05, 2004

Military Families Donate Boots to Exhibit

At the press conference Tuesday, Kevin and Joyce Lucey recounted the events leading up to their son Jeffrey's suicide that occurred a few months after his return from Iraq.

While in Iraq Jeffrey found himself in an alleyway, trying to avoid gunfire. He saw in the street the body of an Iraqi boy who had been shot in the head. Although the boy was already dead, Jeff ran out, picked up the body, and carried it into the safety of the alley. Clenched in the boy's fist was a small blood-stained American flag. Jeff took the flag and kept it with him for the rest of his life.

The Luceys were thrilled when Jeff returned home last year, apparently safe, but his injuries were just not visible yet.

At first, Jeff seemed happy to have his life back, but the family noticed he was drinking a lot, and he became more and more reclusive. On Christmas eve he became irritable and at one point threw two dog tags at his sister and said, "Your brother is a murderer." The dog tags belonged to two Iraqi unarmed soldiers that Jeffrey had killed at point blank range because he had been ordered to do so.

He kept the dog tags and wore them around his neck to honor the two men.

After Christmas the nightmares were so frequent and tumultuous that Jeffrey got little sleep. He vomited every day. Family members often stayed up most of the night with him.

On May 28, 2004 the family had Jeff committed to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Leeds, MA. He was discharged four days later, diagnosed with alcoholism and mood swings.

"Nobody really saw him," said his father. "The records show he indicated to somebody at the VA that he was contemplating suicide, but we were never informed."

On June 21, Kevin stayed up with Jeff until 1 a.m. Jeff asked if he could curl up in his father's lap. In what he regards as one last gift, the father cradled his grown son.

On June 22 Jeffrey hung himself in the basement of his parent's home. They buried him with the blood-stained American flag that belonged to the young Iraqi boy. The Luceys donated Jeffrey's boots to the Eyes Wide Open exhibition in honor of their son.

Kevin told the news media: "This goddamn war is creating thousands of Jeffreys. "We don't want people to make the same mistakes we did."

see the report in The Republican from Springfield, MA


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