AWOL Soldier Suffering from PTSD Turns Himself In

Army Specialist Jeff Hanks. CBS/Pia Malbran


Less than 24 hours after interviewing AWOL Army specialist Jeff Hanks in the living room of his temporary home in White Lake, North Carolina, I was waiting for him to turn himself in at Gate 4 of Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

In that brief time, Hanks had become something of a symbol. 

He was a soldier struggling with what he said was war-induced stress, anger, panic -  all PTSD-like symptoms. 

He was fighting the military for help to the point where he walked away from the Army last month after a superior ordered him to return to Afghanistan just days before an on-base mental health assessment.

It was clear during my exclusive hour-long interview with Hanks (to run on the CBS Evening News soon), that this 30-year-old with two tours under his belt was both highly emotional and extremely rational about his decision - balancing the weight of leaving his unit against a need to once again be the man loved by his wife and two little girls.

AWOL Army Specialist Jeff Hanks turns himself in at Ft. Campbell, KY November 11, 2010. CBS/Pia Malbran

The fact he would turn himself in today - on Veterans Day, and one day before Hanks would officially be declared a 30-day deserter, only added to his anxiety.

He knew it would seem disrespectful, and dishonorable to many vets.

But in the end, he said, he hoped others - including his command - would understand his decision to leave, and then return, was based on nothing more than a desire to get the mental health care he knows he needs.

Then he walked into Fort Campbell to face a very uncertain future.