August 9, 2010

Marine Widow Lost Her Combat Veteran to Suicide: Icarus Syndrome

Photo by Scott Lee
I received this comment on January 26, 2009 at 10:41 AM on an article I wrote, We Cannot Make it Through the Confines of Our Minds Without the Help of Others, it went viral on January 23, 2009 the day I published it. Here is the comment,
After watching my father, a 16 yr. Army WWII veteran, my uncle, a WWI Navy veteran, my husband, Marine Corps '68 in country, cousins, brothers-in-law, and friends, then reading correspondence from my great-grandfather after the Civil War, I have been left with an understanding of that life-altering change that you speak of that leaves ordinary life and its mundane, trivial worries a shadowy caricature of what you feel life is supposed to be.

Perhaps it is a chemical alteration the body undergoes, the pharmaceutical companies will be happy to help, but perhaps it is a more profound change, spiritual if you will. If you can find a way to channel that omniscient feeling into making our society function optimally, there would be a chance for us.
Idealism aside, how do we teach our public, the individuals and institutions, you know the ones you risked your life for, to set aside their petty bickering, greed, indifference, dissolution, and other assorted trivialities? How do we, the people, understand that is up to us to understand you, the veteran, as part of our duty to honor you? The veil has been stripped away for you, as for any survivor of extremely traumatic events, allowing you to cherish the miracle that is life in its simplest form, something most people, in this country, will never know. Breathe, waking up in the morning, walking, seeing the birds and stars above..."In Flanders Field" captures the sentiment nicely and has stood the test of time.

I used to think it was possible to get people to see, now I am not so sure. I am the widow of a Marine who suicided after a trigger event that I only fully comprehended 20 years after the fact. As a second wife, and a younger one at that, what we had in common besides the religion and education we were raised in, was that for us, our lives changed forever due to a serious, life-altering event, allowing us to penetrate the veil and a shared understanding that escaped most of our circle of family and acquaintances.

My father chose to continue on with his thrill seeking by his choice of occupations, a friend and contemporary of his, a German POW for over 8 years, drank early and often for the rest of his life, isolating himself from his family, another ran his car into a tree. The three above were EXTREMELY successful individuals by society's standards. I know many other of their stories.

I like to call it the Icarus syndrome. No, you haven't seen it in print anywhere, I coined it, call Stephen Colbert. I have been reading about shell shock, combat fatigue, PTSD, and every other related syndrome for over 30 years, pre-dating my marriage ( I am okay at math ). We all love glory, the feel of its warm glow, but the veteran's need for an adrenaline rush is coupled with the very real element of death and survival and it is a heady mix.

I say the glory is all theirs, not those who write of it or examine it, they are just wannabes and if they truly want to help, then they must insist that the ordinary citizens take heed and do their part by ensuring a just society and the limited necessity of war.

Deborah from Louisiana


  1. This breaks my heart. I wish there was something I could do to help, is there?

  2. Don't know, did some check'n round hea' and think you might. What did you have in mind?


Please share your comments, stories and information. Thank you. ~ Scott Lee