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Staff Sergeant Merrick McKenzie

Staff Sergeant Merrick McKenzie joined the United States Marine Corps in 2002 at the age of 18. He served for a four-year period before being honorably discharged in December of 2006. SSGT McKenzie specialized in field artillery fire control. Duties included delivery of accurate artillery fire to include position survey and fire direction computation.

While deployed to Iraq in 2004, SSGT McKenzie’s unit was exposed to small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) fire, indirect mortar fire, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) almost daily. He experienced close calls with small arms fire and large blasts on several different occasions, but luckily was never directly hit by shrapnel or small arms fire. SSGT McKenzie was, however, exposed to intense shock waves of blasts, and his body and head were violently jarred on many different occasions. He was also involved in a vehicle rollover as a turret gunner during a convoy and was ejected from the top of the vehicle.

SSGT McKenzie has been diagnosed with severe posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), acute sleep disorder, cognitive reasoning, depression, anxiety, memory loss, gastroesophageal reflux, hearing loss, left and right knee injuries, and spinal injuries.

The years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq have brought PTSD among military personnel to the attention of the American people as never before. Blast waves from explosions rattle the brain and can cause traumatic brain injuries which are often linked to PTSD. Most PTSD sufferers repeatedly relive the trauma in their thoughts during the day and in nightmares when they sleep. While the condition varies from person to person, more and more studies have linked PTSD with chronic depression and suicidal ideation.

Among the commendations received by SSGT McKenzie are the Rifle Expert (4th Award), Pistol Expert (1st Award), Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Combat Action Ribbon (Iraq), Navy and Maine Corps Achievement Medal (2nd Award), Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Letter of Appreciation, and the Meritorious Mast.

SSGT McKenzie received a home in Punta Gorda, Florida.