Families honor veterans at Freedom Tree lighting - KNOE 8 News; KNOE-TV; KNOE.com |

Families honor veterans at Freedom Tree lighting

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MONROE, La. (KNOE 8 News) - In a salute to the brave men and women who have served our country, the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum lit its Freedom Trees to honor veterans.

Families decorated the trees with pictures of those in the military, one of the ornaments on the tree representing the U.S. Army, belongs to Kacey Eppinette and her son Leighton, who come to watch the tree lighting every year. The ornament is for Kacey's husband, Chad Eppinette.

"He served two tours in Iraq, and received a Purple Heart," says Kacey, "and when he came back from the military he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and TBI, traumatic brain injuries from the explosions."

Kacey says her husband's experiences overseas changed him.

"He was a different person than the man married," says Kacey.

Handling PTSD was difficult for their entire family, but Kacey stayed by Chad's side.

"Just being able to understand it I think was the hardest thing," says Kacey, "I didn't understand it until it was too late."

Chad Eppinette committed suicide in July of 2011. Kacey says he was receiving treatment for PTSD, but the disorder became too much for Chad to handle.

"By the time they start showing symptoms, it's too late," says Kacey, "they need the treatment, preventative treatment when they come home, is what they need the most."

Her husband may not have been killed in action, but Kacey says he never truly came home from the war.

"That's the way I look at it, he died overseas. His body came home but the rest of him didn't."

Chad Eppinette's uniform and Purple Heart now hang in the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum, where his family come to celebrate his memory every year.

The Freedom Trees will be up through the rest of the holiday season, and there's still room for decorations. You can bring a photo of your soldier to the Chennault Museum.

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