The IGTNT (I Got The News Today) series is a reminder that nearly every day, somebody gets the heartbreaking news that a friend, former classmate, or beloved family member will not be coming home from war.
This is a departure from the normal IGTNT series, as the brave man being honored came home from 18 months of service in Afganistan safely, but died June 5th of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, having suffered since the time of his service from post-traumatic stress disorder. Among veterans, suicide rates average around 18-22 per day, or around one suicide every 80 minutes. This one was a friend of mine.
Tonight we honor Sgt. DovBer Magy, 42, from St. Louis Park, MN, more recently of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize.
Please take a moment below to remember him,
and all those who have lost their lives in, and because of, these wars.
(Disclaimer: I've tried to confirm all the facts here with some of Dov's closer friends. But some of this is from memory, and I may not have all the facts right. But I did my best.)
I've known DovBer Magy - Dov (pronounced as the past tense of "dive") as he was known - off and on for around ten years, having met him through Minnesota science fiction and fantasy fandom. He was one of those people who was instantly likeable. He would greet a passing acquaintance as warmly as a close friend, yet his warmth was genuine. When we ran into each other, he'd greet me (as most of his male friends and acquaintances) as 'brother', and though most people who I've known to call people "brother" don't do so with any real sincerity, in Dov's case the opposite was true. He loved people, and he genuinely expressed warmth and kinship with others.
At local conventions, Dov was also known as "Karaoke Joe", and he spent many an hour running the karaoke machine in the music room or a room party. To this day, the fact that Dov was a karaoke enthusiast is, in my mind, the sole redeeming quality of karaoke, which I normally loathe. Yet Dov's genuine warmth coupled with his ebullient enthusiasm for it made it seem more appealing. (Yet he never got me to take the stage, not for lack of trying.)
Dov and I shot the breeze many a time in the downtime of a convention - pre-con, post-con. He taught secular old me a few things about the Jewish faith ("Really? I didn't know you couldn't eat cheeseburgers...") and I tried to coax him a bit more towards progressive politics. Never once did I hear him say a harsh word to or about anyone he or I knew.
Dov was 18 days older than me - born May 6, 1971. He enlisted in the Army while the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan were both in high gear, intending to serve his country in time of war. He was barely young enough to enlist - at the time, the maximum age was 35. He served with dedication and honor, fighting in the 82nd Airborne division for 18 months in Afghanistan, ending his service with the rank of Sergeant.
Those who knew him knew his service was difficult for him; we knew the environs were harsh and brutal, but he didn't speak much of the combat he saw while he was there. But the truth of the difficulty of his tour was unknown to most of us -- certainly to me.
Not long after he completed his service, he and his wife announced they were moving from Minnesota to Belize, to spend the rest of their days in a Central American paradise. Dov invited me and many others to, should we ever choose to, come visit and stay with them. I wish it was an opportunity I'd taken.
He'd come back to Minnesota for a convention here or there, and in Belize he ran "Karaoke Joe's" at several local watering holes in San Pedro. But in July 2012, he quit hosting karaoke, citing a need to refocus. We don't really know if he quit because he was too busy, or if it was because of the PTSD -- or both.
When in Minnesota, a favorite song he liked to perform was new - "Broken" by Seether and Amy Lee, which he performed often. One friend with whom he performed remarked that she wondered if this song was part of how he expressed his quiet struggle.
He also had been asked about whether he missed anything about Afghanistan -- a bridge, a view, a person. "Not a thing," he'd reply without hesitation, a finality in how he said it that he wished to discuss it no further.
Earlier this year, Dov suffered an accidental head injury (in a kitchen mishap, of all things). The injury was severe enough to have left him with some memory issues. Friends were concerned for him, of course, but we didn't know where it would lead.
On June 6, news that Dov had died the day before reached friends through Facebook and other channels. I had assumed the head injury was more serious than we'd known and he died from complications of it. There was an outpouring of grief from his friends and family, and he was laid to rest June 7th here in Minnesota. I couldn't attend his service as at the time I was unemployed and had an important job interview all afternoon (and, as it turns out, I did get the job.)
Saturday I learned the truth -- Dov had taken his own life. While visiting the VA stateside for his head injury, I'm told, talks with a counselor (something combat veterans are supposed to do regularly) dredged up some of the memories of his time in Afghanistan that he said he really would have liked to stay buried. The next day, he shot himself. He was 42. He is survived by his parents Eli & Bonnie Magy, his sister Chanie, many nieces and nephews, a grandniece and nephew, and especially his wife Laura, with whose gracious permission I gratefully pen this diary.
Most IGTNT diaries include a count of the number of service members who have lost their lives while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. These are important numbers to remember, as a potent reminder of the cost of war and the sacrifice of many of our fellow Americans.
But beyond the numbers of the killed and injured, there are many who come home from their service with wounds that cannot be seen nor that a doctor can easily detect nor treat. Post-traumatic stress afflicts an unknown number of our servicemen and veterans and it can haunt and torment them for the rest of their lives -- sometimes, even to the point of suicide.
The IGTNT series, owing to the inherent difficulties, does not normally mark the passing those who lose their lives not through enemy action or mishap during time of war, but as a consequence of the psychological trauma suffered from their experiences in the theater of battle. Post-traumatic stress syndrome is often invisible and silent, and those who struggle with it often do not receive the help and support they need. I offer this remembrance of Sgt. DovBer Magy as a representative of all who have borne these hidden wounds, and lost their lives as a consequence.
Rest in peace, Dov. Your service, and your life, will not be forgotten.
As I often say in IGTNT diaries, may the day come soon when no more of our brave sons and daughters need be lost to war.
Please bear in mind that these diaries are read by friends and family of the service member chronicled here. May all of our remembrances be full of compassion rather than politics.