Jeff Brown is a U.S. military combat veteran who fought both in Baghdad and the infamous city of Fallujah. As a crewmember assigned to a mobile field artillery unit, he serviced, drove and fired munitions from one of several thousand U.S. Army vehicles during the opening phases of the Iraq War.

Brown was born in Kingston, Jamaica on Dec. 30, 1982. His parents divorced early in his childhood, and he immigrated to the United States with his mother in 1988, settling into a middle class neighborhood in Queens, New York where he spent the next 10 years attending school, playing sports and practicing art in one of the city’s most ethnically diverse neighborhoods.

Brown’s father lived only a few blocks away and played a key role in Brown’s life until his mother relocated the family to Atlanta, Georgia. Brown had to mature quickly, by age 16 assuming the role of caretaker for both of his siblings while his mother worked.

After graduating high school in 2001, he enrolled at a local community college, but spent only one semester there. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 inspired Brown to join the military, and by December 2001 (just shy of his 19th birthday) he had enlisted in the Army.

Brown served with the 1st Battalion Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division in Ft. Steward Georgia, and by 2003 he had crossed the border into Iraq. During his 11 months in Iraq, the 21-year-old Brown witnessed firsthand the horrors of modern war: charred bodies, dead children and burned neighborhoods.

While in Iraq he formed deep kinships with his fellow soldiers, even turning down an offer to leave his unit in order to have his citizenship expedited.

Upon his return from Iraq, Brown’s performance suffered greatly as he attempted to grapple with feelings of guilt and emptiness. He began to exhibit the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and would disappear from base for days on end. Brown was eventually given the military equivalent of an administrative trial before his commanding officers, and rather than refer him for psychiatric evaluation and proper treatment they chose to discharge him early from military service with a general discharge in 2004.

Jeff Brown (left) during Operation Iraq Freedom, Iraq 2003. Courtesy Jeff Brown

Homecoming and deportation
Brown went back to Atlanta, trying to put the war behind him. He tried to reintegrate back into society, but when he learned of the death of his friend Army Spc. Gary Walters in 2005, he became clinically depressed and began having brushes with the law.

In 2006 he was convicted of assaulting a police officer in Atlanta, eventually serving a short prison term. Around this time Brown sought psychiatric treatment and enrolled in the Department of Veteran Affairs for evaluation. He was eventually diagnosed with both bi-polar disorder and PTSD. While learning to live with his dual-diagnosis, Brown was convicted of another felony in 2009. He went back to prison, but this time he was informed that he faced deportation.

Brown was deported to Kingston, Jamaica in 2012. He now lives in a one-bedroom apartment, but still supports his mother and siblings in Atlanta. He has not had any psychiatric treatment since 2012.

The irony of Brown’s story is that he attempted to gain his citizenship through naturalization in 2004, but he failed to respond to a correspondence from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), because he was in the midst of a grappling with his mental condition.

Brown said recently that he has begun to petition the Department of Veterans Affairs to receive proper mental health care. Unfortunately, the VA does not have a comprehensive program to track, monitor and provide proper services to deported veterans who, more than most, need these services for their very survival.