AWOL Soldier Returns on Veterans Day

A soldier who chose to go home instead of back to Afghanistan is turning himself in to Fort Campbell authorities on Veterans Day. Spc. Jeff Hanks, who has been AWOL for nearly a month, says he just wants treatment for post traumatic stress.

Spc. Hanks was home from Afghanistan in September for a few weeks of leave. In the airport just before heading back to the Middle East, Hanks suffered a panic attack that he blames on post traumatic stress. But he says his superiors didn’t take the symptoms seriously.

“It was treated like it was nothing. They were like, if you don’t have a gun in your mouth, then you’re fine.”

Fort Campbell has been at the center of the Army’s growing problem with soldier suicides, and commanders admit to a need for more psychiatrists.

Hanks says he only spent a few minutes with an Army therapists. But he now has a PTSD diagnosis from a civilian psychiatrist.

The group Iraq Veterans Against the War promoted the 30-year-old’s return on Veterans Day. But Hanks says he doesn’t oppose to the war. He just wants to draw attention to soldiers like himself who can’t get help.

“I don’t have a problem going to Afghanistan. I’ve already done six months there. I just know something is wrong and needs to be treated.”

The punishment for going AWOL will be up to Hanks’ unit commander. If he’d been gone another day, he would have been considered a deserter, which carries stiffer penalties.

The Army saw an increase in desertion from 2003 to 2007. Right now Fort Campbell has 30 deserters and another 30 soldiers AWOL.

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