Iraq war veteran Eric Jasinski, after seeking treatment for his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is being punished by the Army.
Jasinski turned himself in to the Army late last year, after having gone absent without leave (AWOL) in order to seek help for his PTSD. Help, he told Truthout, he was not receiving from the Army, even after requesting assistance on multiple occasions.
He was court-martialed and jailed for 25 days for having gone AWOL, during which time he was escorted in shackles to therapy sessions for his PTSD. After being released from prison, he was informed that he would be given an other-than-honorable discharge, which means he is likely ineligible for full PTSD treatment from the Veterans' Administration (VA) after he leaves the service.
Jasinski enlisted in the military in 2005, and deployed to Iraq in October 2006 as an intelligence analyst with the U.S. Army. He collected intelligence in order to put together strike packets - where air strikes would take place.
Upon his return to the U.S. after his tour, Jasinski was suffering from severe PTSD due to what he did and saw in Iraq, along with remorse and guilt for the work he did that he knows contributed to the loss of life in Iraq.
"What I saw and what I did in Iraq caused my PTSD," Jasinski, 23-years-old, told Truthout during a phone interview. "Also, I lost a good friend in Iraq, and I went through a divorce - she left right before I deployed - and my grandmother passed away when I was over there, so it was all super rough on me."
Upon returning home in December 2007, Jasinski tried to get treatment via the military. He was self-medicating by drinking heavily, and an over- burdened military mental health counselor sent him to see a civilian doctor, who diagnosed him with severe PTSD.
"I went to get help, but I had an eight hour wait to see one of five doctors. But after several attempts, finally I got a periodic check up and I told that counselor what was happening, and he said they'd help me... but I ended up getting a letter that instructed me to go see a civilian doctor, and she diagnosed me with PTSD," Jasinski explained. "Then, I was taking the medications and they were helping, because I thought I was to get out of the Army in February 2009 when my contract expired."
As the date approached, Jasinski was stop-lossed (an involuntary extension of his contract), an event that he said "pushed me over the edge" because he was told he was to be sent to Iraq within a month.
During his pre-deployment processing, "They gave me a 90-day supply of meds to get me over to Iraq, and I saw a counselor during that period, and I told him,' I don't know what I'm going to do if I go back to Iraq.'"
"He asked if I was suicidal," Jasinski explained, "and I said not right now, I'm not planning on going home and blowing my brains out. He said, 'Well, you're good to go then.' And he sent me on my way. I knew at that moment, when they finalized my paperwork for Iraq, that there was no way I could go back with my untreated PTSD. I needed more help."
Jasinski went AWOL, where he remained out of service until Dec. 11, 2009, when he returned to turn himself in to authorities at Fort Hood, in Killeen, Texas.
"He has heavy-duty PTSD and never would have gone AWOL if he'd gotten the help he needed from the military," James Branum, Jasinski's civilian lawyer, told Truthout. "This case highlights the need of the military to provide better mental health care for its soldiers."
Branum, who is also co-chair of the Military Law Task Force, told Truthout in December, "Our hope is that his unit won't court-martial him, but puts him in a warrior transition unit where they will evaluate him to either treat him or give him a medical discharge. He'd be safe there, and eventually, they'd give him a medical discharge because his PTSD symptoms are so severe."
But the Army scheduled a Summary Court Martial for March 31. At it, Jasinski was sentenced to 30 days in the Bell County Jail in Texas. Laura Barrett, Jasinski's mother, told the **Temple Herald Telegram**, "This has been a total outrage. I cannot believe my son who is diagnosed with PTSD from his deployment to Iraq would be sent to jail."