|In Memory of a Hometown Hero|
Jeffrey Michael Lucey was born on March 18, 1981 and was raised in the small town of Belchertown Massachusetts. Jeff was fortunate enough to grow up with a loving and caring family. He grew up with two sisters, Kelly and Debbie and his parents, Kevin and Joyce Lucey.
During Jeffrey’s early childhood, he like many other kids his age joined the cub scouts. Jeff enjoyed the adventurous experiences that the cub scouts had to offer. In addition to enjoying nature and the outdoors, Jeff was quite active in a wide range of sports. On his free time after school, Jeff participated in numerous pickup games with his neighborhood friends. Jeff was quite the athlete. He enjoyed Baseball, Football, Basketball and many other various sports. Jeffrey went on into middle school and showed off his talent with his pitching skills while playing for the Mill Valley Baseball Team. He impressed coaches for years to come with his athletic skills.
As Jeff went on into high school, Jeff began to explore and experience the ever so popular transition into adulthood. During Jeff’s sophomore year in High School, Jeff met Julie Proulx who would become his eventual girlfriend for the next seven years. Jeff did not start dating her until October 24, 1997. The reason why that date is significant is because that is the day Jeff got into a very bad car accident. Julie was with him and she only got a scratch while Jeff had more serious injuries and was transported to the local hospital by ambulance. After that moment in time, I guess you can call it the Florence Nightingale Effect, Julie fell for Jeff and the two of them were inseparable and very much in love with each other.
Finally after four years in high school, Jeff graduated in June of 1999. In September of that same year, Jeff decided to further his education with a Business Degree and enrolled at Holyoke Community College. While attending college, Jeff and one of his close friends, Pablo Chaverri, met up with an old high school acquaintance who had just graduated from Marine Corps Boot Camp. The newly graduated Private First Class had taken up a program where he would help out local recruiters seek new recruits to join the U.S. Marines Corps. After a little convincing, Jeff and Pablo agreed and arranged a meeting with one of the U.S. Marine recruiters. The meetings were rather informal in nature. Basically the recruiter met with Jeff and Pablo’s families separately to go over everything. It was important for not only the interested party to understand what they were getting into but for the immediate families as well. After the meetings, Jeff and Pablo of course had to think about their decision. Neither one would join unless the other chose to do so. Finally, in late December of 1999, while jogging at the Quabbin Reservoir in Belchertown, MA, both Jeff and Pablo had decided to make a decision that day. They jogged up a long hill and stopped in an open field and after some discussion; they both decided to join together in the buddy program.
Jeff left for Paris Island in May of 2000 and completed basic training in August of 2000. From there he was sent to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina for Marine Combat Training. After completing Marine Combat Training in November of 2000, he was then assigned to Fort Nathan Hale in New Haven, Connecticut.
Everything was going great. Jeff had come home and was only obligated to one weekend a month and two weeks a year. After all that training and being home permanently he felt like a million bucks. He was in great shape, going to school, and had a wonderful girlfriend. What more can a guy ask for.
All of this changed on September 11, 2001. After going through the biggest Terrorist Attack in American History, the world was on edge. This event greatly affected Jeff. Jeff was looking for any way to try to help out those affected by the 9/11 tragedy. When it became known who was responsible for the attacks, Jeff wanted to suit up and go to Afghanistan right then and there. Jeff felt quite fortunate that he was already a member of the Marine Corps Reserves. He felt he was already in a good position to help fight for justice for what had happened.
After a couple of years of anticipation, it was decided by high ranking officials to not send Jeff’s unit to Afghanistan. Instead, other plans were being arranged to send troops to South West Asia. Jeff’s unit was activated in January of 2003. Jeff left for Camp Pendleton California shortly after. After some routine processing and training in California, Jeff and his unit ended up in Kuwait in the beginning of February of that year.
On an entry dated March 20, 2003, he wrote in his journal that a scud missile had flown overhead. The Iraq War had begun. Jeffrey wrote letters home about his time in war reflecting its’ horror. He said he would never want to fight in a war again and that he felt he had done immoral things and wished he could erase the last month of his life. This was in April 2003.
Returning in July of 2003, he appeared well physically unscathed, yet he was mortally wounded. He initially appeared to be doing well – returning to college, his girlfriend and his friends.
The first significant event occurred the evening of Christmas Eve, December 24, 2003 when after tossing the dog tags he had been wearing, he tearfully told his sister Debbie that he was nothing more than a murderer. The next day he appeared fine.
We, as a family, discussed and encouraged him to get help. Jeff refused due to the stigma that surrounds seeking help for the “Hidden Wounds” of war.
During mid March of 2004, when he was on vacation from college; celebrating his 23rd birthday and the first year anniversary of the Iraq conflict – symptoms of hidden wounds exploded. The next three months became a tortured, chaotic raging hell.
Jeffrey experienced the following difficulties: daily morning vomiting, social anxiety, isolation, reclusiveness, general sadness and heaviness (in a room full of people you can feel all alone), anger, loss, powerlessness, helplessness, chaos, self-medicating with alcohol and marijuana, an inability to focus and to attend college, fear of sleep, loss of appetite, suicidal remarks and ideation, hallucinations – visual, auditory and tactile. Other symptoms included hearing and searching for camel spiders in his room with a flashlight during the night, feeling that he didn’t belong, fluctuating moods, self-loathing, no sense of future, a vacant look in his eyes, a sense that no one understood, a sense that he could not be forgiven, intimacy deficit, pushing those in his life away yet not wanting to be abandoned, apprehension, fear, exhaustion, etc. All of these symptoms were interacting with each other.
Jeff had this completely chaotic, raging storm which appeared to be evoked by nothing in particular. People tried to approach his irrational world in a rational manner.
His family brought Jeff back four days later – only to be turned away. Jeff came back home and continued his tortured journey for nine more days. Then he stopped drinking and again reached out for help. The response was slow. Jeff’s and the system’s fingertips grazed each other’s but only to slip through. Jeff’s mom said she was watching her son slowly die in his room.
On the evening before he died, Jeff was initially in a rage but through the intervention of someone at the Vet Center, he calmed and did share with that person that no one cared enough to help. Jeff then asked his Dad if he could sit on his lap – the second time that month. A therapist said he was looking for a place that he felt safe. They rocked in silence for about forty five minutes. Then Jeff went to his room.
The next time Jeff’s Dad had his son in his lap was when he was lowering his lifeless body from the beam in the cellar … amidst a shrine of pictures, letters and writings he left behind ….one imploring us to remember him only as a child when “I was happy, proud and enjoyed life”…
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