View Full Version : NCIS debunk Deserter's War Stories to get disability for PTSD

10-09-2009, 12:30 PM
Corps Discounts Deserter's War Stories
October 09, 2009
Saint Paul Pioneer Press

After investigating the combat claims of a Marine twice diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and taken to Camp Lejeune, N.C., before he could be committed to a hospital in Minnesota, the military concluded Thursday that none of the events --including a possible war crime -- happened.

In fact, the military said, Pvt. Travis Hafterson of Circle Pines, Minn., never saw combat in Iraq at all.

"It was a solid investigation, and we determined that that never happened," said Maj. Kelly Frushour, a public affairs officer at Camp Lejeune.

Hafterson, who had been wanted for desertion after going AWOL for about a month and a half, was released last week from Ramsey County Jail into custody of the Marines and taken to Camp Lejeune.

The transfer came hours before a scheduled Ramsey County District Court hearing to determine whether to commit the 21-year-old to Regions Hospital in St. Paul for treatment for PTSD.

Hafterson had been diagnosed with the disorder twice in the previous week. His family and attorney say he had planned to turn himself in, but they wanted to ensure he received treatment, which they believed would not happen in military custody.

The court hearing took place in Hafterson's absence, and a judge ruled he should be committed.

According to two psychiatric reports presented to the court, during his first tour in Iraq, Hafterson served as a Marine patrolling urban areas, and he related killing men at close range and witnessing

the death of friends. His friends, family and fiancee also said he wrote of the events in letters from Iraq or spoke of them after his 2007-08 tour.

"Upon examination, Mr. Hafterson fully meets the clinical criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder where he experienced, witnessed and was confronted with combat events that involved actual death and threatened death to self and others. His response has involved feelings of intense fear, helplessness and horror," stated one of the psychological examinations, conducted by Dr. Peter Meyers, of Wayzata.

Meyers said Hafterson would "persistently re-experience" the alleged events with symptoms that included "recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections," "dissociative flashbacks," "attempts to avoid thoughts, feelings or conversations related to the events" and "hyper vigilance with overly gross startle response."

Meyers' report included an account of Hafterson's unit sweeping an urban area with Iraqi police. An Iraqi police officer opened the door of a house and was shot in the head, Hafterson said. He said he and another soldier threw a grenade into the house, and "though the assailant had his arm basically blown off, he was still functional, leaving Mr. Hafterson no choice but to kill him outright with his bayonet into his throat."

After reading of that particular event in media reports, the military's Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigated Hafterson for a possible war crime.

"That's why we investigated it. That's a violation of the law of war: We don't kill the wounded. That's what prompted the investigation," Frushour said.

Frushour said the investigation, which began Monday, centered on the testimony of Hafterson, a sergeant he served with and his company commander.

But the military concluded Hafterson did not take part in combat, kill anyone or even fire his weapon while in Iraq.

It also said he was not present when a lieutenant lost his leg to a suicide bomber -- another event he claimed to have witnessed, as outlined in his psychiatric report.

When reached at home to comment about the investigation, Hafterson's mother said she had spoken with her son and he said he did not want the issue pursued further.

"The best thing I can say for Travis right now is 'no comment,' " Jamie Hafterson said.

Meyers did not return a call for comment on the military's findings.

But Hafterson's attorney, Ronald Bradley, said he did not believe the findings. Bradley said that if it were found that a war crime had taken place, Hafterson -- as well as others in his unit -- could face serious repercussions.

"Mom believes it happened. I believe it happened. ... But I understand why the Marine Corps and maybe even Travis right now say it didn't," Bradley said.

But he acknowledged he did not have evidence to dispute the findings -- among them that Hafterson had not seen any combat. "They can say they stationed him on the far side of the moon, and I couldn't refute it," he said.