Gerardo Daniel Luciano
Company A 1st Battalion 22nd Infantry
10th Mountain Division
Gerardo D. Luciano was born on June 09, 1972 and was from New York City, New York.
On October 16, 1994, Private E2
Luciano died in a non-hostile incident in Haiti at the age of 22
while serving with his unit in Operation Uphold Democracy.
The name of Gerardo D.
Luciano inscribed on Panel 3 Row 24 of the Middle East Conflicts
in Marseilles, LaSalle County, Illinois
Photo by Leland Bottomley from the Find A Grave website
Haitian Stress Syndrome?
By Marcus Mabry
Filed: 10/30/94 at 7:00 PM | Updated: 3/13/10 at 9:24 PM
Pvt. Gerardo Luciano seemed at home among all the homesick men of the 10th Mountain Division in Haiti. He played football with
his platoon mates at the military airfield in Port-au-Prince. Friends said he spoke easily and never seemed withdrawn. The 22-year-old
New Yorker had just written to his mother, promising he would be home by New Year's Day. Then, at 10:47 on a humid night early last week,
Luciano reportedly set the firing mechanism on his M-16 rifle to "burst,'' stuck the muzzle in his mouth and pulled the trigger. The weapon
spat out three shots, according to a friend, Cpl. Kenneth Working, 21. Luciano became the third suicide among U.S. forces in Haiti.
"He was just kind of depressed,'' said Working. "But we're all kind of depressed.''
Is some sort of Haitian Stress Syndrome at work? In the first month of Operation Restore Democracy, U.S. forces suffered more
suicides than battle casualties. It wasn't clear that any of the three suicides was due primarily to service in Haiti. Col. Barry Willey,
a spokesman for the U.S. command, called them "separate and isolated'' events, even though two occurred in the same 600-man
battalion of the 10th Division. But the bare statistic -- three suicides among the 16,000 Americans currently in Haiti -- was alarming.
During 15 months of dangerous and frustrating duty in Somalia, there was only one suicide among 96,000 American troops.
And during a shooting war in the Persian Gulf, only eight of 650,000 U.S. military personnel killed themselves.
Compared with some other missions, Haitian duty is not all that bad; so far, there have been only two combat wounds, both nonfatal.
But when troops go anywhere, they take their emotional baggage with them, and the burden often grows heavier away from family and
friends. The GIs in Haiti come from a military establishment increasingly pressured by force reductions, career instability and wrenching
deployments. "It seems like every year we go somewhere,'' complains Pfc. Kevin Wills, 21, who cleaned up after Hurricane Andrew
in Florida and now is on duty in Haiti. Military families suffer from the stress; cases of spousal abuse have risen nearly 30 percent
in five years, according to Pentagon statistics.
Among the troops in Haiti, the pressures have caused "a high number of serious mental disorders,'' says psychiatrist Capt. Donald Hall
of the army's 528th Combat Stress Control Detachment. During the first week of the operation, when Hall was in Haiti, about 10 soldiers
required psychiatric evacuation, he says, including a "pretty serious'' case of conversion disorder, a form of paralysis "often associated
with emotional problems.''
New soldiers are not immune to military stress; all three suicide victims were young. Spec. Alejandro Robles, the other member of the
10th Division, was only 20 when he shot himself. Marine Lance Cpl. Maurice Williams was 21 when he died, also of a gunshot wound,
on board the USS Nashville. "It bothers us that these men were so despondent and none of us knew it,'' says Maj. Gen. David Meade,
commander of the 10th. "There may be more men out there like that.''
Despite the lack of fighting, troops live with battlefield discomfort. Many are still in tents, still eating bland prepackaged meals.
With temperatures in the 80s, they sweat under their helmets and flak jackets -- "Jenny Craig on the cheap,'' jokes one lieutenant.
They still have no regular phone service. Mail, showers and laundry only recently became available. Supply lines were originally
prepared for a fighting invasion; only now are they switching from ammunition to creature comforts.
Many soldiers were unprepared for the squalor of the hemisphere's poorest country. When Pfc. Gina Honey, a 21-year-old MP,
first drove through Port-au-Prince, her instant reaction was "Oh, my God -- the smell!'' She was stunned by the ramshackle poverty
and unsanitary conditions. "I've never seen such filth,'' she says. "These poor people. It's really painful.''
The mission can also be intensely frustrating. Haitians seem to expect the Americans to put everything right -- to provide housing
and jobs, to disarm the ubiquitous "attaches'' who propped up the old regime. The troops cannot live up to those expectations,
and they know it. What frustrates some of them even more is that they have no enemy to attack. "People were geared up to do
a lot of fighting, and then they didn't,'' says psychiatrist Hall. "That left a lot of aggressive energy with no place to go.''
The unfought war may explain why the suicide rate is higher than in Somalia or the gulf. The lack of a battlefield catharsis
is another form of stress -- one that may become familiar as U.S. troops police the new world order.
Wednesday October 19, 1994
3 Suicides: Stress Team Sent To Haiti
By John F. Harris
WASHINGTON - Alarmed by three suicides in three weeks among U.S. servicemen in Haiti, the Pentagon said yesterday
that a "combat stress action team" has arrived in that country to provide psychological counseling.
Pentagon officials said they don't know if the suicides are related, but the number of self-inflicted deaths
among the 20,000 military personnel in Haiti is unusual.
In Somalia, where 96,000 troops served more than a year, there was only one suicide. During the Persian Gulf War, there were
25 times more U.S. service members sent to the Middle East than have been dispatched to Haiti, but just eight suicides,
a ratio less than in Haiti.
"We're taking it very seriously, and we're pursuing it," said Pentagon spokesman Dennis Boxx.
Two of the suicides were committed by people who served in the same brigade of the Army's 10th Mountain Division,
and one was by a Marine who was serving on a Navy ship involved in the Haiti operation.
"We are at this point unable to determine whether there's any correlation . . ," Boxx said.
Boxx said Maj. Gen. David Meade, 10th Mountain Division commander, "has spoken with all of his unit commanders
to increase awareness of this issue and to make sure we try to stay on top of it."
On Sept. 29, Army Spc. Alejandro Robles, 20, of Los Angeles, shot himself while on patrol at a Haitian government guest house
in Port-au-Prince. Army sources said he had been having romantic troubles.
On Oct. 5, Marine Lance Cpl. Maurice Williams, 21, of Detroit, shot himself aboard the USS Nashville, which was in dock
at Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico.
And on Sunday Army Pvt. Gerardo Luciano, 22, killed himself in Port-au-Prince.
Air Force Lt. Col. Doug Hart said the three psychiatrists from the stress team were in Haiti and at work yesterday.
Also yesterday, 505 Haitian refugees sailed on a U.S. Coast Guard cutter bound for Port-au-Prince from their internment
at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo, Cuba.
This departure decreased the number of Haitian refugees at Guantanamo to 9,268, according to U.S. Army Col. Mike Pearson,
the Joint Task Force commander in charge of the Haitian camps.
An additional 1,250 are scheduled to leave this week, followed by 2,500 next week and 2,500 the following week.
Information from Knight-Ridder Newspapers is included in this report.
From The Seattle Times
The New York Times
Suicides of 3 In U.S. Ranks Raise Concern
By ERIC SCHMITT,
Published: October 19, 1994
WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 For
the third time in a month, an American serviceman in Haiti has
apparently committed suicide,
prompting military commanders to hold small counseling sessions with soldiers and to enlist the help of chaplains and combat psychiatrists.
Since United States forces started landing in Haiti on Sept. 19, none of the 20,000 deployed have been killed by hostile fire.
But one marine and two soldiers from the same 600-man battalion of the Army's 10th Mountain Division have all apparently
shot themselves to death. Pvt. Gerardo D. Luciano, a 22-year-old Army infantryman whose hometown was listed as New York City,
became the latest suicide on Sunday.
The deaths have seized the attention of senior Pentagon officials and field commanders who are groping for an explanation.
Investigators are searching for a possible common link, including increasingly frequent deployments and unusual strains
from new peacekeeping and relief missions.
"We are concerned," a Pentagon spokesman, Dennis Boxx, told reporters today.
From the bare biographical sketches provided by the military, there seem to be few common strands among the three dead men.
Two were single, one was divorced with an 18-month-old son. One soldier served in Somalia and in the cleanup after
Hurricane Andrew; for the others, Haiti was the first major operation. All were 22 years old or younger.
Joseph M. Rothberg, a researcher at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research who has studied suicides in the armed forces,
said, "The biggest question is: Does the fact that these same people have been to Somalia, Haiti and other places put an extra load
on them which is contributing to the suicide?"
The only combat casualties so far have been a Special Forces soldier who was wounded by Haitian gunmen in Les Cays
on Oct. 2, and a Creole-speaking Navy interpreter who was grazed by a bullet in a shootout between marines and Haitian police
in Cap Haitien on Sept. 24.
During the eight-month American deployment in the Persian Gulf , there were eight suicides among the 650,000 troops in the region
at that time. In the 16-month Somalia operation, which involved a total of 96,000 American forces, only one service member
Pentagon officials say the overall suicide rate in the military is lower than in society in general. In 1992, the latest year figures
are available, the overall suicide rate was 12.7 deaths per 100,000, as against 11.7 deaths per 100,000 in the military,
the Defense Department said.
But the number of suicides in the military has declined this year, after increasing in 1993.
GI Suicides in Haiti Alert Army
to the Enemy Within : Military: All missions have stresses and
But the impoverished nation is taking its toll on U.S. troops.
October 21, 1994|TRACY WILKINSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti Sgt. James DeCoite's wants as a military police officer in Haiti are simple.
A shower without mud. A day off. Cold water to drink.
"Saudi Arabia was 10 times better than this," DeCoite said amid the filth of a Port-au-Prince street market as he watched over
the Dessalines Street police station. "It's rougher here. Even though I was under threat in Saudi,
this is rougher and more frustrating mentally."
The suicides of three American soldiers in as many weeks has focused new attention on the morale of the men and women
serving in the operation to restore democratic government to Haiti.
The suicides--15 times the U.S. national average--have raised questions about whether the mission in Haiti
is taking an unusual toll on the troops.
On the surface, it shouldn't.
In marked contrast to the backdrops for military endeavors in Saudi Arabia and Somalia, this is a non-hostile environment
where crowds are more likely to cheer soldiers than shoot at them.
But, say the counselors and mental health specialists assigned to the military, each deployment has its peculiar sources of stress and strain.
American soldiers stationed here voice complaints that range from the quality of their living conditions to shock over
the poverty of Haiti to frustration with the changes in and limitations of their mission.
And the swift way in which the nature of the Haiti operation shifted--overnight, from an invasion to an unchallenged occupation--
gave soldiers little time to adjust and created confusion, the counselors say.
"In Somalia, you knew from the beginning what was going to happen," said infantryman Anthony Paquin, standing on a dirt road
as Humvees roared by. "When we first got here, we didn't know what to expect. First we were told we were going on an invasion.
And then it was a peacekeeping mission."
Many servicemen and women note especially the frustration of not being allowed to intervene more directly
in stopping "Haitian-on-Haitian" violence.
GIs frequently break up fights if they happen upon them, but they are generally supposed to leave the pursuit of criminals
and detentions to international police monitors working with Haitian police.
"We don't want to get too involved, because we want to go home, but we want to do something," DeCoite said,
a short distance from where ever-present crowds of curious Haitian children stared at him over barbed-wire coils.
"We're frustrated about how much power we can use. . . . We're military police. It's inbred in us. We want to stop (violence).
But we can't. The Haitians are supposed to take care of Haitian problems."
While U.S. Army officials caution that the suicides are still under investigation, they acknowledge alarm at the phenomenon.
After the most recent suicide, the Pentagon announced an increase in the number of psychiatrists and mental health workers
assigned to troops in Haiti, although officials here said the increase was part of routine deployment.
In recent days, delivery of mail and access to U.S. news have increased. Duty is rotated to vary a unit's contact with the Haitian public.
The counselors say they encourage the troops to talk out their problems and seek the listening ear of a chaplain or psychiatrist
or psychologist. Forty-seven chaplains are available to attend to the 20,000 troops here.
"We emphasize that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem," said Maj. Eric D. Cipriano, a behavioral scientist
with the 528th Combat Stress Control Detachment out of Ft. Bragg, N.C., in an interview Thursday with a small group of reporters.
"You always want people to understand the reality of the situation, but you don't want them to dwell on it. Some troops
talked about it. The majority we've talked to have dealt with it."
The three suicides, military spokesmen said, were Army Spec. Alejandro Robles, 20, of Los Angeles, who shot himself
while on patrol in Port-au-Prince on Sept. 29; Marine Lance Cpl. Maurice A. Williams, 21, of Detroit, who shot himself
while aboard the transport ship Nashville, docked at Puerto Rico, on Oct. 5, and Army Pvt. Gerardo D. Luciano, 22,
of New York, who shot himself in Port-au-Prince on Oct. 16.
Robles and Luciano belonged to the same brigade of the Army's 10th Mountain Division, and Cipriano said there is some concern
about possible copycat suicides.
There was only one suicide in Somalia, where 96,000 troops served for more than a year. There were eight suicides
during the Persian Gulf War, where 500,000 troops were deployed.
Soldiers guarding the entrance to a series of vacant lots near the port here said Thursday that morale was in flux.
A few feet from where the soldiers stood, a woman had been bathing her feet in water from Haiti's ubiquitous open sewer canals.
And not far away, thousands of Haitians were picking through a mountainous garbage dump in search of food.
"It (morale) varies," Sgt. Orlando Pendleton said. "It's high one day. Next day, it's low. . . . Some of us feel sorry
for a lot of them (the Haitians). We wish we could help more."
"The rich people don't want us (here)," Paquin said. "They don't like us. You can tell by the way they look at us.
They snub their noses."
As the dust kicked up in air almost too hot to breathe, Sgt. Jesse Spencer added: "The biggest question is when are we going
to go home. There's a lot of uncertainty."
Especially for the troops attached to the 10th Mountain, the heat and sun take their toll. These GIs are required to wear hard helmets,
thick flak jackets and often long sleeves in temperatures that soar well above 90 degrees.
"It's physically tiring. The sun sucks every drop out of you," said Spec. David Erickson, a medic attached to the military police unit
at the Dessalines police station. He had just patched up a Haitian machete victim who bled for three hours, treated a local prostitute
who was sick and almost delivered a baby (the Red Cross arrived in time to assume that task).
Erickson said many soldiers are falling ill with dysentery and respiratory infections. His MP unit had worked three weeks
without a day off, he said, and the worst part was the crude conditions of the camp where they sleep.
"We shower in the mud," DeCoite said.
Counselors say separation from family is the problem that most plagues the troops. And, especially in a place like Haiti, a major source
of stress is a sense of helplessness and a loss of control over one's situation and the immediate environment.
Sometimes the poverty of the surroundings challenges a soldier's own value system, the counselors say.
"Soldiers who haven't seen it before do" experience shock, said Capt. Chester Egert, a chaplain attached to the 10th Aviation Brigade
of the 10th Mountain.
"Young soldiers who never traveled outside the U.S. are the ones who are most taken aback. It's disbelief. They can't believe
people live in some of these conditions, without electricity, without water, in the kinds of houses some people live in."
Egert said the quickness with which soldiers are deployed in the modern Army has robbed the men and women of time to decompress
and sort out their feelings after grueling missions such as Somalia or Haiti.
"In today's Army, you're on the other side of the world in 24 hours," he said. "It happened in Vietnam too. A guy would be back
on the streets of L.A. in 18 hours, with no time to process his experiences, and come back to a community . . . with no one to talk to."
As for a consistent trait that counselors look for to identify potential suicides, Cipriano, the behavioral scientist,
said there is no exact science to it.
From The Los Angeles Times
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