Patrick Vega died 10 days into boot camp. Patrick always wanted to be a Marine, and despite his mother’s frequent attempts to tell him it was a phase, he persisted. It took him more than a year to pass the physical tests, running was his weakness. His mother Amy always said, “He’s not the cheetah, he’s the shark in the water.” Patrick loved surfing, water polo, swimming and being a swim instructor.
In the year since Patrick died, the Vega family has been in counseling, and they have some amazing support groups that have helped them through this trying time. The family just spent their Memorial Day weekend at the TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) National Seminar. Both Amy and Patrick’s younger sister Kate openly speak about having good days and bad days. Kate often watches sad movies, so she can let out all her emotions.
It took about eight months for the Vega family to get the report about Patrick’s death, and when they did, they sought a professional to look it over. With some help, they found Dr. Bob Gonzalez who looked over Patrick’s report and dissected it. Dr. Gonzalez told the Vega family there were at least five instances in the report where Patrick could have been saved if he’d just been given an IV and taken to the hospital. This was heartbreaking news for the family.
As they began to look into different ways to deal with the news that Patrick didn’t need to die, they learned about the Feres Doctrine that was established in 1950. The Feres Doctrine says that the federal government can’t be sued when people are injured as a result of military service. The Vega family feels that many things went wrong at boot camp, and they’d like the opportunity to set the record straight, since they don’t believe Patrick died of natural causes. The Supreme Court just refused to hear another case challenging the Feres Doctrine last week, so the Vegas know they have an uphill battle.
Part of the healing process has led Kate and her father Manny to painting rocks to remember Patrick by. They are beautiful pieces of art, and the love and dedication put into each one is obvious. Wherever they travel, they take a rock with them and find a spot to place it. Patrick will not be forgotten, and he is always with them.