News Details

Ijamsville parents create fund to honor memory of war veteran son

By Morgan Young

Source: Gazette.Net: Maryland
Published: Thursday 02 May, 2013


Five years ago at 1:30 a.m. on Memorial Day, Scott McCauley, 57, of Ijamsville was awakened by a telephone call that would change his life.

“My wife handed me the phone and said, ‘Michael shot himself,’” McCauley said.

A few months after being honorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force, Scott’s son, Staff Sgt. Michael McCauley, 24, of Yorktown, Va., had taken his own life due to post-traumatic stress disorder.

The 2001 graduate of Urbana High School joined the USAF Security Forces in 2002 at the age of 17. During his time in the Air Force, he served three combat tours in Iraq, and then 14 months in Osan, Korea, as the youngest training instructor in that military branch, his father said.

“He was always a jovial individual,” McCauley said. “[His death] has been devastating to our family.”

To honor his memory and his six years of military service, Debbie and Scott McCauley have established the Staff Sgt. Michael McCauley Foundation Fund to provide grants to nonprofit organizations and scholarships to students.

McCauley said that the family hopes the fund — which is run by the Community Foundation of Frederick County — will help those families affected by a military-related suicide.

“This fund was a good fit with us because we have a more than 27-year track record of holding these types of funds that benefit Frederick County,” said Betsy Day, president of the community foundation.

Nationwide, about 22 veterans committed suicide each day in 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

“We feel passionately about sharing Michael’s story, and how we regained hope in our lives,” Scott McCauley said. “Michael’s death has meaning and purpose. It is our hope that by establishing this fund, we can help family members of military suicide overcome obstacles that suicide brings.”

As of Friday, there was less than $10,000 in the fund, but McCauley said he had received several donations in recent weeks.

It was three months after his son’s death that the weight of his grief finally overwhelmed him, he said.

“It just hit me,” McCauley said. “At the cemetery, I just started crying. To lose a child is one of the most horrendous things to we can go through.”

After attending a workshop provided by Landmark Education, a company that provides personal development programs, McCauley said that he and his family have been able to come to terms with his son’s death and move on.

“My wife and I have been through absolute hell and back over the last five years,” he said. “But we’re better [now].”

As part of the workshop, the McCauleys were advised to conduct a community service project, which gave birth to the foundation fund.

“We want to there to be a lasting legacy for our son,” he said.

McCauley, a former Maryland state trooper, said he wasn’t surprised when his son decided to join the military a year after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree,” he said with a laugh. “He was one of those kids who just knew he was going [into the service]. He was looking for something to keep him grounded.”

But after several tours in the Middle East, Michael came back a changed man, McCauley said.

“He came back very reserved. It matured him overnight,” he said.

As was the case with many soldiers who were deployed, his son saw many of his friends wounded or killed during his time in the service, McCauley said.

“[By the last tour] He was just tired of going to war,” he said. “He didn’t want to talk about anything.”

Along with the fund, McCauley said that he is working with the Wounded Warrior Project — a nonprofit group that helps severely injured service members — to create a group-therapy program for veterans.

“These guys need an opportunity to talk about their experiences with other war veterans,” he said. “It’s one thing for a solider to talk to a doctor or a therapist, but its another for them to talk to someone whose been where they have been and seen what they have seen.”

To contribute to the the Staff Sgt. Michael McCauley Foundation Fund, go to www.cffredco.org.

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