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Heartbroken Family Searching For Answers After Veteran’s Suspected Overdose Death

November 06, 2018 - 7:26 am

A local family is mourning the death of an Iraq war veteran from a suspected drug overdose.

Stephen Houck, who served eight years in a local Pennsylvania Army National Guard unit, was found dead inside his Wilkes-Barre apartment on Thursday. He was 32.

Funeral services with military honors will be held today at the Kielty-Moran Funeral Home in Plymouth following a viewing 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

“I was so proud of him. I told him how proud of him I was,” Houck’s mother Gloria Blizzard said Monday about her son’s military service.

Houck, a Larksville native, is suspected of taking a lethal dose of the synthetic opioid fentanyl and heroin, she said.

Blizzard, 70, of Noxen Twp., reached out to The Citizens’ Voice to notify the paper about the military funeral and a police investigation into her son’s death.

Luzerne County Deputy Coroner Dan Hughes said police were notified, but that is standard procedure anymore in suspected overdoses now that police have expanded powers to prosecute dealers who sell drugs that lead to a death. He said the coroner’s office will await toxicology results before making an official ruling on the death.

Blizzard, 70, said her son, following his military service, suffered from an ongoing battle with addiction. He wouldn’t seek help. She wished she could have forced him into treatment.

She also wishes a judge would have sent him to prison or rehabilitation this summer after he used her debit card to withdraw more than $300 from her account. She pressed charges against him. Following his arraignment, he was released on unsecured bail.

“I think if a judge would have put him away, he’d be alive today. Too many people are dying because nobody will put them away,” Blizzard said. “They don’t want to go in because they can’t get their drugs. But if they go in, it will save their lives.”

Blizzard said she always forgave Houck because “he’s my son and I love him.”

“My son promised me he wasn’t going to touch anything anymore,” Blizzard said. “I’m so sad, so heartbroken.”

Houck, who had worked for security firms after the military, was receiving military disability benefits at the time he died, she said.

He leaves behind three sons.

The Citizens’ Voice interviewed Houck the day his unit, Bravo Battery of the 109th Field Artillery, left for Iraq in September 2008 for a yearlong deployment. His twin sons, then 9-months-old, were in a stroller by his side for the departure.

“I’ll miss the first times they’re walking and talking. They’ll be different kids when I get home. But that’s why we do it. We do it for our kids,” Houck said at the time.

Houck earned the Army Achievement Medal, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal with a Campaign Star, Army Service Ribbon, Armed Forces Reserve Medal and Combat Action Badge.

“He made history in Iraq,” Blizzard said.

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