A Casualty Of Bush's War
By Mark Clinton and Tony Udell
01 October, 2004
is not a name that will 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
As his father Kevin
said at the memorial, Jeffs 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
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
For its part, the
Marines dismissed Luceys allegation that he had been ordered to
shoot Iraqi prisoners as "without merit"--but didnt
offer an explanation of how that conclusion was reached. Marine spokesperson
Capt. Pat Kerr, however, has confirmed that Luceys 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
In many respects,
Jeffs 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 theyre doing it differently
now. And we dont see that at all. We see the same mistakes happening--mistakes
that are, in fact, not mistakes at all. Its really a way of denying
this issue so they can keep as many warm bodies deployed and re-deployed."
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 Luceys death as eloquently as Sean
Lamory, Jeffs 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 Armys historical average."
Perhaps, he speculated,
the rate is so high because "theres somewhere around 15,000
Iraqi civilians dead, and our troops are having trouble finding the
justice in that."