Soldier Takes Huge Risk to Get PTSD Help

Jeff Hanks is a 30-year-old Army specialist on a mission.

In 2008, Hanks served a six-month tour in Iraq, reports CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian. His first taste of war was taking a haunting toll.

"People need to understand that this is a problem, a widespread problem," Hanks said.

One graphic image - a marketplace bomb - hit too close to home.

"There was a little girl. It was hard to tell she was a little girl," Hanks said. "She was badly hurt. I try to talk about this but I always get upset. She was about the same age as my daughter and I saw her in pain and it's always stuck with me … I just tried to deal with it, you know."

Earlier this year, he was deployed again, this time to Afghanistan. He returned home in September often angry and panicked, a stranger to his wife and two young girls.

"She didn't want to be around me," Hanks said of his wife.

Hanks said he asked for help last month. Instead, he claims, a superior officer at Fort Campbell ordered him back to Afghanistan, just days before he was set to get a mental health exam. So, he walked away, going absent without leave, or AWOL in military jargon.

"I felt like I had no other choice," Hanks said.

Army Reports Record Number of Suicides
Photos: Veterans Day
This Veterans Day, Many Soldiers Still Hurting
AWOL Soldier Returns on Veterans Day

At home in North Carolina, Hanks got evaluations from three civilian therapists who all recommended he get tested for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, with one doctor stating his "current functioning is clearly severely impaired."

On Veterans Day Thursday, he headed back to Fort Campbell to turn himself in, feeling nervous and scared.

Hanks then walked across the street, into a waiting car and an uncertain fate.

A spokesperson at Fort Campbell said Hanks would be treated the same as any other solider who chooses to go AWOL. Hanks told CBS News Thursday night he will now get the mental health care he so desperately wanted. It begins on Monday.
  • Armen Keteyian

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Follow Us

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

On Twitter