WSVN Chanel 7 News
PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. (WSVN) — Marine vets and family members joined bikers from across South Florida Sunday as they came together to remember loved ones lost to post-traumatic stress disorder.
At the First Annual Lance Cpl. Janos V. Lutz PTSD Awareness Ride, bikers honored the late Marine by embarking on a 26-mile motorcycle ride that began at Western High School in Davie and finished at C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke Pines.
The event was spearheaded by Janine Lutz, the deceased lance corporal’s mother. “When I spoke to people about post traumatic stress, they said, ‘Yes, we’re gonna ride; we need to fight for those who fight for us,'” she said.
Lutz was a machine gunner for the U.S. Marine Corps who served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2007. He suffered from PTSD after returning home from the Middle East, and on Jan. 12, 2013 he took his own life by swallowing a handful of pills prescribed to help him cope with the disease.
“We are losing more young men and women to suicide than to combat,” said Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Jack Parsons, who himself suffers from PTSD. “This young lady said, ‘I’m gonna make a change; we’re gonna break the elephant [in the room], and we’re gonna start talking about it.”
Lutz’s brothers-in-arms described him as a dedicated soldier with a good sense of humor. “Johnny was, he was one of funniest guys I’ve ever known,” said A.J. Manglona, who served with Lutz.
“He was loved on both sides for being a good Marine and also being able to break some rules from time to time and just be one of the guys, too,” said fellow Marine George M. Todd, Jr.
The Broward County Commission and Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank C. Ortis designated Sunday as “Janos V. Lutz Post-Traumatic Stress Awareness Day.” “I think it speaks to the power that we need to get post-traumatic stress out into the airwaves,” said Janine Lutz.
Julie DeFazio attended the event in honor of her nephew, whom she lost while he was in combat in Afghanistan. “Their fight is beyond from being over there; their fight is here when they get back home,” she said.
Parsons said there’s no better medicine than the band of brothers that is created overseas. “If you’re in combat, you fight really hard to stay alive every day,” he said. “You’re scared, you run, you do everything you can, but the guys who do it together are a team. They’re brothers, they’re buddies; they’re the tightest brothers in the world.”
If you would like to make a donation to the PTSD Awareness Organization, go to www.lcpllutzlivetotell.org