Thursday, November 15, 2007

They won't treat you but they will arrest you

The US military does not go to any effort to track down service members who go AWOL. They just enter the names in data bases and then police capture them at traffic stops. That's got to be true, right? The press keeps repeating it -- while ignoring the crossing of the Canadian border to hunt down Joshua Key or the targeting of Kyle Snyder. Or the army unit whose whole who reason for existnace is to track down war resisters -- they love especially phoning in tips to Colorado and having the home of parents searched. And it must be true, right? Because the US military keeps saying it, it must be true?

Didn't a military flack just go on Nightline September 21st and repeat that? Didn't Twitchy do just do that as he appeared to strive for Truman Capote-hood despite his flat affect? So it must be true.

Meet Brad Gaskins, 25-years-old, who was 10 miles from Fort Drum, holding a press conference before turning himself in, when the military showed up with local police to arrest him.

From Fernanda Santos' "Army Arrests Sergeant Who Went AWOL" (New York Times):

The soldier, Brad Gaskins, an Army sergeant who had served two tours in Iraq, was speaking with a television reporter at the cafe when two officers from the fort entered with two local police officers, who took him away, his lawyer, Tod Ensign, said.
The officers returned Sergeant Gaskins to his unit, the Second Brigade Combat Team. Whether he will face military prosecution will be up to the unit’s commanders, said Benjamin Abel, a spokesman at Fort Drum.
Sergeant Gaskins, 25, was transferred to Fort Drum after he returned from his second tour of duty in Iraq in February 2006. Six months later, he went home to East Orange, N.J., on leave and did not return. Mr. Ensign, who is the director of Citizen Soldier, a veterans' advocacy group in Manhattan, said the sergeant felt the Army was not giving him adequate treatment.

Gaskins suffers from PTSD and was diagnosed with PTSD while in the military, not that the chain of command was concerned about that. Amy Ohler's "Soldier arrestd after being AWOL" (News 10 Now) offers the reaction of a family member to the arrest:

"Here he is, a young man who has been in the Amy since he was 17 years old, who fought for this country and when he comes back to his own country he's treated like a criminal," said Sonia Murray, Gaskins' aunt.
[. . .]
"I just wonder what their motive to try to keep him from the press, from talking or was their motive to just make an appearance of being harsh and punitive. I almost suspect the latter that they weren't really trying to interfere with his speaking to the press, it was more dragging him away at the end and sending a message," said Ensign.

William Kates' "AWOL soldier: Army didn’t help with PTSD" (AP via Army Times) offers the most in-depth account, two tours in Iraq (sent in 2003 and 2005), signed up in 1999, diagnosed with PTSD after returning from his second deployment to Iraq:

Gaskins left Iraq in February 2006 and was transferred to the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, where he sought help for his worsening mental problems.
Upon his return, he began suffering flashbacks and nightmares, headaches, sleeplessness, weight loss and mood swings that took him from depression to irrational rages, he said.
Military doctors sent Gaskins to the Samaritan Medical Center in Watertown, where he spent two weeks and was diagnosed with PTSD. He soon returned to his unit, but continued having problems. When he asked his commanders about returning to Samaritan, they told him it would delay any chance he had at obtaining a medical release.
"There is a stigma that comes with seeking help, and you basically jeopardize your entire career," Gaskins said.
At the time, the Fort Drum mental health facility had a staff of a dozen caring for approximately 17,000 troops, Ensign said.
Over the past year, Fort Drum has expanded its mental health facility staff to 31, with plans to add 17 staffers, Abel said. "Is there a need for more -- yes," he said.

And in an update on last week's decision to suspend and attempt to expell high school students who peacefully protested the illegal war and followed school directions while doing so, Crystal Yednak (New York Times) reports that all but four have been "allowed to return to class" except for four whose suspension will end Friday.

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