Soldier's widow wages war of her own - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Soldier's widow wages war against meds she says killed her husband

© Alicia McElroy in her home in Petal. © Alicia McElroy in her home in Petal.
HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) -

"We met on Valentine's Day at a Bitter Ball for singles in Mobile, Alabama," said Alicia McElroy, sitting on her couch in her Petal home describing the day she and her husband met. "He was awesome, he was your dream guy. He was too good to be true almost."

Alicia and James McElroy knew they were it for each other from the start.

"Ever since the day we met we never were apart, we were inseparable," said Alicia.

They dated for about a year, were married, and had a son - Dane. James, a Mississippi National Guard soldier who everyone called 'Mac', worked close to home at Camp Shelby.

"We had a good life, we had a happy family," said Alicia. "It was perfect, I mean you couldn't ask for more."

But that was all about to change.

"We got the call on our anniversary in 2009 that he was being deployed." James left in April and came home on leave in October and, Alicia says, he had changed. "Mac was crying all the time, he was depressed, he was anxious, just real agitated and irritable, he couldn't sleep."

He had done a tour in Iraq and once before in Afghanistan, and halfway through his third combat deployment he was breaking down.

"He had been in bed all day and I had been out here with Dane, I didn't want Dane to see his dad like that and I went in the bedroom that afternoon to check on him," said Alicia. "He was in bed sobbing ... He was curled up in the sheets, head, pillow, everything just crying his eyes out," Alicia said. "And after a little while he said 'Please help me, get me some help."

The military sent him to Fort Benning in Georgia to begin receiving treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Alicia would talk to her husband on the phone daily, and she said she could hear him over the line, becoming tired, despondent and lifeless. And then one Sunday, Mac said he would call to say goodnight and he didn't.

"I was in the middle of changing clothes and the doorbell rang and my heart stopped," she remembers. Her young son Dane yelled into her bedroom that there were two men in suits at the door and that's when, she says, she knew. "I could see my neighbor, he was mowing his grass and he got off his lawnmower and was on his knees praying because he saw them walk up to my door."

A soldier from Fort Benning called her days later and told her what had happened - James had not shown up for formation in the morning, and at approximately 9 a.m., was found dead in his barracks. The military recorded the cause of death as multiple drug toxicity. Nearly a full year after his death Alicia received papers in the mail from the military saying her husband had died 'In the line of duty', but other paperwork - autopsy and investigation results, a toxicology report and his medical records still have not arrived.

"They did confirm that every drug found in his system was prescribed to him. All the amounts of the drugs were within normal limits," Alicia says. "He had taken his drugs as prescribed - how do you explain that?"

Alicia believes her husband died after being given a deadly cocktail of medications - including the drug Seroquel, which, since his death, has been taken off of the Department of Defense's Approved Medication Formulary. That means that military doctors must get special permission in order to prescribe it. Incidents of soldiers who died mysteriously while taking drug combinations similar to McElroy's pepper the Internet. Its suspected of causing sudden cardiac arrest and having a lethal interaction with other commonly prescribed PTSD medications.

"I started getting in touch with families," Alicia says. "Our stories were pretty much the same just with different names ... We want to make a change in the way the approach to PTSD is."

A Facebook page in Mac's name and dedicated to the cause has 550 supporters after two weeks.

She's waging a campaign to raise awareness. Her husband's death has been called by the military an 'accident', and she doesn't want whatever it was that happened to Mac, to happen again.

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