News of the Army's 2008 suicide figures did not surprise Kevin Lucey, whose 23-year-old son Jeffrey M. Lucey -- a former Marine -- hanged himself on June 22, 2004 -- 11 months after returning from Iraq.
The night before, Jeffrey "asked if he could sit in my lap and if we could rock," Lucey said.
"It was about 11:30 at night. And I rocked him for about 45 minutes. Now here you have a 23-year-old, 150-pound Marine that I'm just rocking, and his therapist said it was his last gasp. It was his last place for refuge and then, the next time I held him in my lap was when I was taking him down from the rafters. He had put the hose around his neck double-looped and he was dead," Lucey said.
He said his son had not been able to get the treatment he needed from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
"What is disappointing is that the intervention doesn't appear to be there at the present time," he told CNN in a telephone interview from his home in western Massachusetts.
The government settled with the family for $350,000.
"The foolish part of all this is we just wanted someone to say they did wrong," he said. "But no one would until recently."
He said the U.S. attorney, acting on behalf of the Department of Veterans Affairs, told him his son's case had led the VA mental system to be changed.
Fear of stigma may also have played a role in making his son reluctant to seek professional help. His son, Lucey said, was afraid that getting mental help would affect his chances of getting a job as a state trooper. Apparently it did not."A year after he died, they accepted him," the father said.
Photo: Jeffrey Lucey/family photo/Marine Corps Times
More on treatment of veterans: From historian Andrew Hunt, a passionate commentary on the tragic case of a 93 year old WWII vet who froze to death when his electricity was cut off.
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