Monday, December 24, 2007

Battle On The Homefront

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By Jon Seidel Post-Tribune staff writer(Northwest Indiana)

Sgt. Jacob Blaylock won't be counted among the casualties of the Iraq war.
But he, like many soldiers, was haunted by its ghosts. (PTSD)
Blaylock, 26, was a fun-loving man when he went to Iraq, his family said. In photographs, he tends to be the one giving a thumbs-up to the camera. When he came home from war, though, his family said he wanted a beer, he wanted a cigarette, and he never wanted to go back to battle. Blaylock, who grew up in Calumet City, shot himself this month.

He left a note behind in his glove box for his family. "I'm sorry I let everybody down," Blaylock wrote. Blaylock was living in Houston, but his father, Ricky Blaylock, lives in Lowell. Ricky Blaylock said his son's depression medication, from doctors who were treating his son for post-traumatic stress disorder, arrived the day after the suicide.

"The military actually dropped the ball right there," Mr. Blaylock said.
-->According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, between 12 and 20 percent of Iraq war veterans experience post-traumatic stress disorder.

Much of it has to do with guilt. Days after he died, Blaylock's family members said they were still learning more about how bothered he was about what happened overseas. Rob Wisniewski, Blaylock's uncle, lives in Highland. He said his nephew saw two of his friends die in Iraq when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb.

Originally, Blaylock told his family he was told not to ride in that vehicle. It was the lead vehicle in a military convoy, and he was scheduled to go home in two weeks, Wisniewski said. Wednesday, Wisniewski said they learned that Blaylock asked not to ride in the vehicle. "He was supposed to be in that Humvee," Wisniewski said. Instead, Blaylock came home to his fiance, Heidi, and their 8-year-old daughter, Lilly. He also continued singing in his band, Nine Volt. The band was scheduled to play at the House of Blues in Chicago, his father, Ricky Blaylock said. Wisniewski said the lyrics in Blaylock's latest music were a sign that he was bothered by what went on in Iraq.

"There's no hope/There's no doubt/Keep it up, kid, you're doing fine," Blaylock wrote in his song, "Like Peter Pan and His Shadow." Blaylock was buried last week with full military honors in Houston National Cemetery, at the request of his daughter. Ricky Blaylock said it is ultimately everyone's duty(especially the Veterans Administration), to make sure soldiers are taken care of when they come home from war. It's a task, he said, that the military can't handle alone. "If you've got somebody coming back from there," Blaylock said, "you've got to stay on them."

A memorial service for Blaylock has been scheduled for 10 a.m.,
Dec. 29 at St. James Parish, 9640 Kennedy Ave., Highland, IN .

Contact Jon Seidel at 881-3148 or
E. Everett McFall, Vietnam Veteran,PTSD Internet Radio Host, Author of
(I Can Still Hear their Cries, Even In My Sleep),