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AWOL soldier ordered to finish tour in Afghanistan

Associated Press Featured Article

January 11, 2011

AWOL soldier ordered to finish tour in Afghanistan

By Associated Press ,

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Kentucky soldier who went AWOL after he said the military wasn't treating his mental health issues has been ordered to deploy to finish his tour in Afghanistan.

Spc. Jeff Hanks, who turned himself in on Veterans Day, says his command has ordered him to return to Afghanistan immediately and he expects to leave within days on a flight back to his unit.

The Fort Campbell–based soldier told The Associated Press (News - Alert) on Friday that he still believes his issues have not been adequately treated.


"My family doesn't want me to go, but I am not disobeying a command order," he said.

Kelly DeWitt, a spokeswoman at the post on the Tennessee–Kentucky state line, confirmed Hanks is scheduled to deploy within the next few days, but declined to comment further on his case.

The 30–year–old Army infantryman went AWOL and returned home to North Carolina during his mid–tour leave last year, but turned himself in on Veterans Day. Since returning to the post on the Tennessee–Kentucky state line, he said he has been given medications to treat his headaches and nightmares and has been told to seek counseling in Afghanistan.

Hanks is a member of the 101st Airborne Division, which has been deployed numerous times to Iraq and Afghanistan. He said his post–traumatic stress dates to his 2008 deployment to Iraq.

He spent about six months in Afghanistan last year and said he suffered a concussion when a mortar landed nearby. He said counselors outside of the military have diagnosed him with PTSD, but he hasn't been treated since he returned. He said he also took an MRI scan that was ordered by his audiologist, but he has not yet received the results of that screening.

"It's been stressful to be here (at Fort Campbell)," Hanks said, noting that he doesn't think anything has changed since he held a press conference last November outside the gates of the installation.

Going back to his unit in Afghanistan, he said, "makes me anxious." He expects he will have to complete another four months in Afghanistan to finish his one–year tour.

Supporters from Iraq Veterans Against the War said they planned on Saturday to deliver to Hanks' command a letter detailing what they believe are "violations of Hanks' right to heal."

Hanks said he is not anti–war, but said the group that is supporting him "understands the situation I am in."

Hanks is married to a former soldier and has two girls, ages 4 and 5. His commitment to the Army lasts another 2 1/2 years. He doesn't want to leave and face military punishment because he could lose his health care coverage.

"I think the best way to get help is to just wait until I get out of the Army," he said.




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