Saving Pvt. Hafterson: ‘We were so close.’

hafterson_oct_1.jpgPvt. Travis Hafterson, a Marine from Circle Pines, was within hours today of getting the help for post traumatic stress syndrome that he’s been trying to get since the first of two tours of duty in Iraq (See my earlier posts here and here). Then the Marines stepped in.

Hafterson, 21, has been held at the Ramsey County jail since he was arrested at Fort Snelling, where he arrived on Monday with assurances he’d get help for PTSD. He’s wanted on charges of desertion.

Armed with an evaluation from social workers and experts, who said he is suicidal and desperately in need of mental health treatment for PTSD, Ramsey County officials moved up a Monday hearing to this afternoon to civilly commit him to Regions Hospital.

The Marines were notified of the hearing, and about two hours before it was scheduled, a Marine “chaser unit” showed up at the jail, took custody of Hafterson and are carrying him back to Camp LeJeune in North Carolina to face charges, instead.

“We almost got him back,” his mother, Jamie, told me before the scheduled hearing. “I just hope they treat him.”

Few of the attorneys and experts involved in the case seem to think they will. The hearing went on as scheduled, and after Atty. Patrick Cotter, a court-appointed attorney for Hafterson, described his meeting with the Marine at the jail yesterday, Judge Steven Wheeler quickly ordered him committed in absentia. “There’s more than an adequate basis to find this young man meets all the (symptoms) of mental illness and should be committed,” Judge Wheeler said.

Travis Hafterson is now a pawn in a very high-stakes game. The Marines want to punish him. Minnesota wants to treat his mental illness.

“This is not just a Travis thing anymore,” his mother said. “There are lots of boys just like him. He told me ‘if you can’t save me, maybe you can save them.’”

“I’m not trying to lash out at no one,” she said. “I’m mad. But I’m not mad at no one. The Marines have their thing, tool. He’s going back as a deserter, not as a person with PTSD.”

Jamie Hafterson met with Patrick Cotter after the hearing.

“He’s a heck of a good kid,” he told her.

“He’s a heck of a good Marine,” she said.

Hafterson’s family has tried to get area politicians to help, but have had little luck. Jamie Hafterson left two voicemail messages with Sen. Amy Klobuchar that haven’t been returned. A relative, Atty. Ron Bradley, contacted Rep. Michele Bachmann’s office, filled out some paperwork and then was told there wasn’t anything she could do. “He’s kind of Marine property,” Bradley said Bachmann’s aide told him.

This afternoon, Rep. Paul Gardner, DFL-Shoreview, had picked up Hafterson’s cause in an effort to get Sen. Al Franken’s office involved.

As for Hafterson, his whereabouts are unknown. The Marines have confirmed, however, that he’ll spend tonight in the brig at Camp LeJeune.

“I am ashamed of the USMC, as it appears they intentionally interfered with potentially life-saving treatment. I am ashamed of how the Corps has treated one of their own,” Atty. Bradley said in an e-mail to a Marine liaison in Hafterson’s Wounded Warrior Battalion this afternoon.