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In January 2009 the U.S. government settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Jeff Lucey's parents alleging negligence by the Department of Veteran Affairs. Jeff hanged himself in the basement of their home two weeks after being released by a local VA medical center in Massachusetts. The government agreed to pay $350,000.

The attorney handling the case for the government said Lucey's death helped bring reforms in how Iraq veterans were treated at the VA medical center, including the hiring of suicide prevention coordinators. The Luceys said they agreed to settle because the changes amounted to an admission by the VA that the medical treatment provided to veterans was deficient.

That same month, the U.S. Army reported a record number of suicides - 24 soldiers - the highest since 1980, when the Army began tracking rates.

(See Salon's "Coming Home" series on Army deaths.)

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In March 2005 Jacob was sent for a second tour in Iraq with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines. His unit spent seven months based in the city of Ar Ramadi and during this time it lost 16 people. Jacob suffered some injuries but said it was nothing major. He returned to the States and Camp Pendleton in October 2005.

Ten months later, after serving just under four years in the Marines, he decided not to re-enlist and was honorably discharged. He said the VA has determined he is 80% disabled due to PTSD and back, head and other injuries. Jacob currently is in his first year at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, CA. and plans to major in psychology. He is interested in pursuing a career in counseling.

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On April 14, 2005, Andrew was permanently "medically retired" from the military as a result of the damage caused to his brain by the anti-malaria drug Lariam. The side effects of this drug were found to have been responsible for causing his panic attacks in Iraq. Before leaving the military, Andrew had been promoted to Sergeant First Class, the position he held upon retiring. He hasn't fully recovered from the damage the drug caused to his brain stem, but has undergone physical therapy to improve certain brain functions. He compares his situation to that of a person who suffers a mild stroke and needs therapy to regain certain skills.

The U.S. military has cleared him of all wrongdoing and acknowledged they were wrong in charging him with a crime that he never committed, and that the anti-malaria drug directly caused the side effects that lead to his panic attacks.

Since retiring from the military, Andrew has become involved in veterans advocacy work and is outreach coordinator and investigator for Veterans for America, working directly with Steve Robinson.

He's also established a free-of-charge community mental health program for active duty service members and returning veterans. Operation Just One connects veterans with mental-health practitioners who have agreed to give free care.

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In March 2005, Rob Sarra graduated from the police academy and for the past two years he's been a police officer in the Chicago area. Rob reports he is doing well in general and is getting on with his life. At the time of the original broadcast he was involved with Iraq Veterans Against the War, but since then he resigned and is no longer involved with the organization.

photo of lucey's unit

At the time of the original broadcast of "The Soldier's Heart" (March 2005), Jeff Lucey's Marine reserve unit - 1st Truck Platoon of the 6th Motor Transport Battalion - was in Iraq. They came back to the States several months later and in the fall of 2005 another detachment from the unit deployed to Iraq. They returned in early 2006.


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posted march 12, 2007

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