U.S. military challenges Marine's story of PTSDby Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Military officials released a statement Thursday saying a Minnesota Marine diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder never engaged in combat while deployed to Iraq.
Pvt. Travis Hafterson's mother, Jamie Hafterson, has spoken publicly about her son's diagnosis and raised questions about whether he will receive adequate treatment at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Her son, who went AWOL, turned himself in to Fort Snelling last week before going to the Marine base.
Based on medical assessments in Minnesota, a judge had ordered Hafterson to be committed to Regions Hospital in St. Paul for treatment of his mental illness. Instead, the military held Hafterson at Fort Snelling before taking him to Camp Lejeune.
Jamie Hafterson has said her son's PTSD is linked to serving two tours in Iraq, where she said he killed people and saw a suicide bomb seriously injure other Marines.
But on Thursday, Marine Maj. Kelly Frushour said a Marine Corps investigation on the matter showed Hafterson did not witness the bombing that injured a lieutenant in his command and did not engage in any combat while deployed. Frushour also said Hafterson did not kill anyone or even fire his weapon.
Frushour said in the statement that she couldn't release Hafterson's medical record because of privacy concerns. She said all Marines undergo a health assessment when returning from deployment that includes a review of the Marine's combat experiences and living conditions.
Pvt. Hafterson's attorney, Ron Bradley, said Thursday that he was "surprised and skeptical" of the Marines investigation, noting that a psychologist and psychiatrist in Minnesota had both found that Hafterson suffers from PTSD. Bradley also said Hafterson was part of an infantry unit, which he said makes it likely that he engaged in combat.
"Can I prove anything? No. I have no firsthand knowledge. Do I believe the military? No," Bradley said. "I believe my client."
Even if the Marines are correct and Hafterson never engaged in combat, Bradley said the 21-year-old still needs help.
"The kid's got mental health problems whether his allegations of what he experienced in combat are true or not," he said.
Jamie Hafterson said she hadn't yet seen the statement released by the Marines, but she said it doesn't sound right. Her son sent hand-written letters back home during his deployment describing his combat experiences, she said.
"He has way too much detail to be making it up," Hafterson said. "The stories are consistent, and I don't think he's reread the letters he sent."
Bradley said Pvt. Hafterson remains in custody at Camp Lejeune on charges of unauthorized absence.
- All Things Considered, 10/08/2009, 5:50 p.m.