Saving Pvt. Hafterson: One of thousands

IMG00260.jpg 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

  • S Duncan

    He definetly isn’t the only one my husband has been trying to get help for two years even after Drs recommended him not go to ranges where there was live ammunition the command told him to go even after the dr suggested he stay at home until they could do the paperwork to get him into a facility the command disregarded that recommendation too. The marine corps has policies established to help but when commands disregard the policies nothing happens to them so they continue to do what they want. The command also wrote my husband a negative counseling for getting mental health. I’m not sure there will ever be help for everyone that truly needs it until people are held accountable to following policies regardingental health.

  • Pam Juve

    Won’t somebody please help Travis!

    He’s a great kid. I’ve known him since he was little and can’t believe wanting to serve his country should ruin his life.

  • lindsey

    We are all trying to help Travis, unfortunately the marine corps is not on the same page. Everyone who knows Travis knows that he was, and still is, a good marine. I hope that he gets the help that he needs, the help he deserves. I love him more than anything in this world. He was willing to give his life for our country, what is our country willing to do for him?

  • Quinn

    This brave soldier is my cousin, we are much the same in many ways. Travis has seen many things that I would not wish upon anyone. He is taking the stress of this war much better then I could ever hope to achieve. I understand that he has done some wrong things, but that does not mean that he should not reseave help. We must all remember that he is one of the brave soldiers that is fighting for our freedom. Some of us have not seen war and many may never. Before anyone condems him they should first look at themself and see if they would handle it as well. I thank all those who are supportive. Those of you who do not agree can keep it to yourself.

  • Joanna

    I hear you, I’m praying for you and yours.