Need for counseling grows; life after war ends in tragedy for two area veterans
Adam Kurczi and Phillip Cantu served their country proudly as members of the military.
They also became part of a growing list of young men who suffer from depression or commit suicide following their tours of duty.
Cantu, of Sandusky, was 24 when he killed himself last year. The army sergeant was also a national hero as his military unit helped capture Saddam Hussein in December 2003.
Kurczi, of North Royalton, was 31 when he set himself on fire June 9 in Vermilion.
A 2000 Sandusky High School graduate, Cantu was working as a recruiter for the U.S. Army after returning from Iraq. He enlisted with the U.S. Army after Sept. 11, 2001.
For his involvement in important operations, including being a part of the group that tracked down Saddam near Tikrit, Iraq, he received the Army Commendation Medal of Valor.
Kurczi had tours of duty in Korea and Iraq and, most recently, served in the National Guard with the HHC Brigade Combat Team out of Washington, Pa.
He served for a year and a half in Iraq with the Signal Corps, deployed with Task Force Dragoon.
June 9, Kurczi drove to the home of his former wife's relatives to pay an unexpected visit during a bonfire.
While there, he poured a gallon of camping fuel over himself, got into his car and started a fire. He died the next day.
Kurczi's family laid him to rest Thursday afternoon. They knew he was trying to get help in counseling, but his fate was sealed by depression.
His brother Aaron Kurczi, 26, said the memorial service was beautiful and made him think of his oldest brother as he was before he returned from Iraq.
"He was not the same person when he came back from Iraq," he said. "Before he went, my brother was the nicest guy you could meet. He was the kind of person who never met a stranger. He just liked everybody."