StoryCorps’ Military Voices Initiative records stories from members of the U.S. military who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Marine Cpl. Jeff Lucey deployed to Iraq, where he was a convoy driver, in 2003. His parents, Joyce and Kevin Lucey, drove him to the deployment point in the early hours of the morning.
It was dark, but eerily lit up with headlights all the cars dropping off Marines, Kevin recalls with his wife in a StoryCorps interview in Wellesley, Mass.
“I just remember him walking away into the darkness, and the darkness engulfing him,” Kevin continues. “I had a tremendous fear that was going to be the last time I was going to see my son.”
Jeff returned to the U.S. later that year, and though he appeared to be well, something inside him had changed.
Jeff’s homecoming was “magnificent,” Joyce says, with balloons and a police escort. “But on Christmas Eve, we went to my mom’s. He didn’t come. His sister went home to see him, and when she got there, he threw his dog tags at her and said, ‘Don’t you know your brother’s nothing but a murderer?’ ”
Jeff started having nightmares. He kept a flashlight under the bed, and would search his room at night for spiders because he said he could hear them, Joyce says.
He started staying in the house, Kevin says, “and sometimes he would stay just within his room. It was like the perfect storm converged.”
About 11:30 p.m. on June 21, 2004, Jeff “came into the front room, and he asked me if he could sit in my lap and if we could rock,” Kevin recalls. “Which we did. And I — I wasn’t even thinking that this was his way of saying goodbye.”
The next day, “when I came back from work, I saw the cellar door open,” Kevin continues. “And I saw Jeff hanging from the beam. I went under him and pushed him up, and he was in my lap for the last time.”
Jeff was 23.
“He was very social and outgoing, always smiling,” Joyce says. “So you just didn’t think Jeff would have any problems, you know, dealing with [the] emotional side of war.”
“We never saw,” Kevin says, “that he was mortally wounded within his spirit.”
Audio produced for Weekend Edition Saturday by Liyna Anwar.
StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.