We have a little more information now on the fate of Marine Pvt. Travis Hafterson, 21, of Circle Pines, who was whisked away by the Marines on Thursday before he could be voluntarily committed to a Minnesota facility for treatment of his post traumatic stress disorder. Today he’s being held in a military prison in North Carolina on “suicide watch.”
Hafterson called his mother this morning to say he was held by Marines in Minnesota until 3:30 p.m. yesterday. That’s two hours after Judge Steven D. Wheeler, saying he met all the definitions of a man with mental illness, ordered Hafterson committed to Regions Hospital in St. Paul (See my post on this from yesterday).
Hafterson suffers from PTSD as a result of two tours of duty in Iraq. He returned to Minnesota on leave last month to seek treatment, but he was arrested at Fort Snelling on Monday on a warrant charging him with desertion (See my Wednesday post on this). Since then, his family has been trying to get him mental health treatment, convinced the Marines are interested in punishing him rather than treating him.
Marine officials and an expert on PTSD at Fort Snelling, to whom Haftersen intended to turn himself in on Monday, have not returned phone calls seeking comment.
“He said, ‘I’m on survival mode. I will make it through this, I promise,'” Jamie Hafterson told me this afternoon about the phone call from her son. “He said he’s ‘going to the brig. I need to get in general population. My thoughts are killing me, they’re tearing me apart. I can’t take it no more; all I have is my thoughts.'”
“It’s too late to help Travis now, but there are thousands of guys just like him and maybe we can help them,” Hafterson’s fiancee, Lindsey Moore, said this afternoon after talking with Hafterson. “Travis asked for help after his first deployment and he didn’t get it. He asked for help after his second deployment and he didn’t get it. He left to try to get some help; it’s not like he went on vacation. If the Marine Corps had given him some help when he asked for it, he wouldn’t be in trouble.”
Moore says she’s concerned that once the “story dies down,” people will stop caring about returning combat infantry soldiers. “It’s devastating for people who fought for this country,” she said, “and the Marines just don’t care. They should be getting help while they’re still in (the service) and not just when they get out. It’s not fair to the soldiers, it’s not fair to society when these guys return to the world.
Moore says she thinks returning combat soldiers — the front-line troops — should be “required to talk to somebody” when they get home.
(Photo courtesy of Jamie Hafterson)
From the MPR archive:
Midmorning: PTSD is on the rise
Morning Edition: Catching combat stress: Physicians learn the signs
News Cut: Why Journalism Matters