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October 6th, 2009
09:23 PM ET

AWOL Soldier Points to PTSD

We closed out our first hour today with a segment on mental health issues and the military.

First up: Gary Tuchman's piece on an AWOL soldier - who couldn't take Army life, but couldn't take life on the lam either. This soldier says he had to leave, for the safety of his fellow troops. That he wasn't getting enough help for his PTSD, and felt like a ticking time-bomb.

When he turned himself in yesterday to face a desertion charge, Gary was right there.



Pentagon officials wouldn't go into the specifics of Spc. Gartin's case - but they say there's plenty of mental health treatment available to troops.

We discussed all of this with Tom Tarantino, from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.



soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. N

    Desertion in at time of war. Get the JAG to tell you what the harshest penalty is for that offense. I will give a hint, it is not going to Leavenworth.

    Sounds to me like he did not have the intestinal fortitude to go talk to someone, he just ran, rather than getting a straw.

    October 6, 2009 at 11:15 pm |
  2. Robert Lake,MI

    How mant tours has this soldier been forced to committ to? This is just another reason why GW Bush should be held for war crimes! At no point in American history till W did a soldier have to committ to more than one term! Once you served your term then one could volunteer for more but was only forced into one one year stint! I know this because my Grandfather served one one year stint and my father was in Veitnam and was forced to serve a one year term and that was it, they did the rest of their time out of a war zone! George W Bush should be held accountable for all the hundreds of thousands murdered and for all the mamed and lamed kids coming home as well! I dont know how a man could sleep at night knowingly he was responsible for this?

    October 7, 2009 at 7:58 am |
  3. Shyra Taylor

    To: "N" I am glad that you already think you know what my brother has been through and are qualified to pass judgement on his situation. I hope that in a potential moment of weakness and need that you are not forced to do something that you normally wouldn't do and than be judged for it by others.

    Your attitude is exactly why he couldn't get the help that he needed and deserved and felt like the only thing he could resort to was this. It is not fair that in a country he defended, he is now being help prisoner because he couldn't get the help he needed. Either because no one took him seriously, or because the ARMY didin't have/want to extend the help he needed.

    My brother fought for his country, as so many thousands of others and its time for the military to quit using and abusing their soldiers. If you fight for your country and are willing to put your life on the line, your country should do the same for you. Otherwise- what is there that is worth fighting for?????

    October 7, 2009 at 11:35 am |
  4. Mike Armstrong TX.

    We need better rotation for the troops for R and R

    October 7, 2009 at 11:54 am |
  5. N

    Shyra, in a time of war he deserted, he left his brother on the front lines while he worried only about himself. That is what is not fair. He deserves no compation, he deserves no forgiveness. He did not work up his chain of command he just ran out on his brothers because he was scared. The Army has programs, he did not even attempt to use them.

    He is a prisoner because he deserted, at least he was man enough to actually turn himself in, for that he gets props.

    He is not being held prisoner because he needed help, he may well need help, but that is beside the point. He signed a friggen contract, he knew the penalty for desertion, he did it anyways, the least he can go through this with his head held high.

    But then again, maybe they train different in the Army.

    October 7, 2009 at 1:51 pm |
  6. Patrick

    I have to say, deserting you fellow soldiers or using a metal health issue as an excuse to run. Only tells me the state of our military, and that the leaders from NCO's up are not doing there jobs, it can be shown by the ineffectiveness of our troops in Afghanistan; where troops are more concerned with self-preservation, than with completion of the mission.
    As a Disabled Veteran and former NCO there is always someone for a soldier to talk to, all he or she has to to is step up and do it, but just as well that NCO or other leader's need to be looking for what is wrong with their soldiers, how they are acting after every mission, no matter how small it may seem.
    Just talking to them, and letting them get what eat's them up off their chest help's alot, and if that does not then you as the leader can help them with the next steps, and help them overcome the stigma of thinking they are branded as crazy by other's in their unit.
    So it is no excuse for any member of the Armed Forces to desert, just because he was afraid he may hurt others, because of his PTSD, all he had to do was step forward and ask, and if at one level he did not receive help then keep going up until he received it.

    October 7, 2009 at 3:21 pm |
  7. jlh

    "N" just how do you know these things? You speak as if you have first hand knowledge.

    October 7, 2009 at 3:34 pm |
  8. jlh

    How do you know that he didn't go through the proper channels? How do you know he didn't go up the "chain of command?"

    October 7, 2009 at 3:36 pm |
  9. Mike Armstrong TX.

    This is called weather leave weather they like it or not.

    October 8, 2009 at 12:52 pm |
  10. Cathy

    Yea, the army always says there's help....BUT these kids are teased or put down.. I am an army mom and know first hand why it is so hard for these kids get the help they need. He made the right choice, now lets home the army does the right thing!!!!

    October 8, 2009 at 2:10 pm |
  11. Michael (NY)

    I do not know the entire story behind this soldier going AWOL, so unlike Mr/Mrs N. I will not judge him. That being said, if he has used PTSD/mental issues as an easy out, then SHAME ON HIM.
    As for the military having "programs" in place for soldier mental health, increased suicide rates, etc. What is in place is woefully inadequate. The NY Times Magazine did a piece on a soldier that went to the VA mental health "professionals". He told them he was afraid for his fellow soldiers if he went back into combat, his wife told them, soldiers who were his friends in his unit told them,"He is not fit for combat duty". The "professionals" stamped him A-OK. He later committed suicide.
    I have been to/in VA hospitals and, being as kind as I can be, they are deplorable (have we forgotten the Walter Reed mess?). I will not paint all of the people that work for the VA system with the same brush, but most are NOT who I would want treating my family. I hope this soldier gets the help he needs.
    And hey N? Have you ever served? Have you served in combat? Because I'd hate to pass judgement on someone before I knew the entire story( and yes I have did my Dad, Grand Dad and Great Grand Dad)

    October 8, 2009 at 4:11 pm |