Marines under the gun over PTSD

Whatever happened to Pvt. Travis Hafterson, the Marine who went AWOL from Camp Lejeune last fall, allegedly because he couldn’t get treatment for his post-traumatic stress disorder, and whom the Marines whisked away from authorities here, just as they were about to civilly commit him (at his request) for treatment?

The short answer (and also the long one) is: I don’t know. The family went quiet after the Marines got tough and issued a claim that Hafterson was not in combat (after refusing to return calls for more than a week). It said he did not have PTSD, even though an independent psychologist here said he did.

Either way, he was clearly a Marine with problems, and most people in these parts didn’t much care.

One of his claims was that other Marines at the camp weren’t getting help for their PTSD. Minnesota’s congressional delegation didn’t intervene but now it turns out there may be some whistleblowing fire behind the young Marine’s smoke.

A North Carolina congressman has been raising a fuss about it since a whistleblower, a brain trauma specialist, raised concerns about the Marines’ treatment of PTSD sufferers there and got blackballed for his trouble.

In December, Dr. Kernan Manion described treatment of Marines at the camp in almost the same terms that Hafterson did.

“If not more Fort Hoods, Camp Liberties, soldier fratricide, spousal homicide, we’ll see it individually in suicides, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, family dysfunction, in formerly fine young men coming back and saying, as I’ve heard so many times, ‘I’m not cut out for society. I can’t stand people. I can’t tolerate commotion. I need to live in the woods,'” Manion said. “That’s what we’re going to have. Broken, not contributing, not functional members of society. It infuriates me – what they are doing to these guys, because it’s so ineptly run by a system that values rank and power more than anything else – so we’re stuck throwing money into a fragmented system of inept clinics and the crisis goes on.”

Salon.com reported last week that the Marines doctored Dr. Manion’s performance evaluations after he blew the whistle:


Internal documents and e-mails show that Navy officials unfavorably doctored a psychiatrist’s performance record after he blew the whistle on what he said was dangerously inept management of care for Marines suffering combat stress at Camp Lejeune, N.C. The internal correspondence, obtained by Salon, also includes an order to delete earlier records praising the work of the psychiatrist, Dr. Kernan Manion, who was fired last September after lodging his complaints.

Now, the Associated Press reports, Rep. Walter Jones, a Republican whose district includes the Marine camp, has pressured the Defense Department to investigate the treatment the Marines are receiving.

“There are very serious questions about how the system is working and how that system is supposed to be helping the Marines and their families,” Jones told the AP. “There are some issues there. We’re taking a giant step with this investigation.”

Long before Dr. Manion blew the whistle, however, a Circle Pines Marine and his family were telling Minnesota politicians, the media, and anyone else who would listen, the same thing, shortly before he went back into the secrecy of Camp Lejeune.

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