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Monday, August 23, 2004

The Cost of War

The price of war is ultimately incalculable on a human scale. Body counts say nothing at all of the cost to individuals, families, communities. Heartbreaking stories abound. From This Is Rumor Control:

If you ask Marine Lance Corporal Jeffrey Lucey's mother what happened, she will tell you that her son died in Iraq. He wasn't physically dead yet, but when Jeffrey came back from the war a year ago, he just wasn't the same; some fundamental part of him got left behind. Noisy demons followed him everywhere.

There was no respite from the accusatory chatter in his head, the creeping sense of impending doom, the hopelessness that invaded every hour in a relentless march of endless days. Sometimes he would drink himself into unconsciousness, but even sleep was no safe haven.

On June 22 at about 6:45 in the evening, Jeffrey Lucey's father discovered him hanging in the basement cellar, his neck encircled by a noose fashioned from a garden hose. Jeffrey left three suicide notes, one of them, a practice version his father thinks, was found tucked behind the television set.

"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."

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.

There's more at the link above. If you can read it without breaking down, I recommend doing so. I also recommend sharing it with everyone you know.And then, go read this story at The All Spin Zone:

This past Tuesday, August 17th, four members of the New Hampshire Air National Guard returned from deployment in Iraq. Sergeants Chris Moisan, Nancy Young, Dave Guindon, and Mike Steer left for duty on February 18th, 2004, according to an article in the NHANG newsletter, The Refueler.

In the photo to the left from Wednesday's edition of the Manchester Union Leader , the four airmen appear pretty darn happy to be home. While six months in Iraq is not an extended tour (at least in terms of the length of time that many units are remaining in country) it's still a long time to be away from friends and family. So, it's not surprising that in an airport interview, Dave Guindon told a reporter:

"It feels fantastic. It's hard to explain it, it feels so good," Guindon said about being home, shortly after he arrived at Manchester Airport. "I'm just going to take today slow, wake up tomorrow, and see what it's like to be back in a normal place."

...Sharon Guindon, Dave Guindon's wife, said she was elated. While no definite plans for his return had been made yet, she said, the two plan to catch up on all the things that have happened during the past six months.

"I tell you, it's such a big relief that he's coming home," Mrs. Guindon said, adding later, "You don't realize what they go through until you have someone over there."

On Wednesday, not 24 hours after saying those words, Dave Guindon put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.

TSgt Dave Guindon was 48 years old, and left behind his wife and two children.

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