AWOL Fort Hood soldier turns himself in
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As a soldier, going through the gates of Fort Hood may not seem like anything out of the ordinary. However, if you are a soldier who has gone AWOL (taken an absence from the military without leave), it is a move that comes with a lot of uncertainty.
Ten months ago while back home on his two-week leave, 22-year-old Private First Class Jacob Wade made the decision not to go back to Iraq.
"The decision not to return to Iraq was one that was very upsetting for the family because we wanted Jacob to fulfill his responsibilities," his mother Laurie said.
However, on Monday he came ready to turn himself in.
"I want to turn myself in now because I want to get this over with and get back to normal life," Wade said.
He said he made the decision after dealing with the effects of what he witnessed and experienced during his first six months in Iraq with the 1st Cavalry Division.
"Riding through town we got attacked," he said. "I had a grenade go off five feet behind me, and only one other soldier that was with me made it into the truck, and we thought everyone was dead."
Wade said that was just one of many incidents he experienced which continue to haunt him to this day.
"I don't sleep very well; I only get a couple hours of sleep at a time or wake up for hours, and I'll have nightmares," he said. "I wake up spitting and thinking I'm spitting out sand."
Wade said he eventually had to seek the help of a psychologist near his family's home in New York. A psychological report by Dr. William Cross, which was presented by Wade's attorney, diagnosed Wade with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
"It is my professional opinion that Jacob Wade is suffering from chronic post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the numerous traumas which he has experienced in his life," Dr. Cross said in his report. "His military experience exacerbated the effect of the trauma, which he experienced earlier in his life."
Wade is not alone. Eric Jasinski experienced a similar situation when he returned to Fort Hood in December after going AWOL.
"It's definitely scary for me to see him go through it," Jasinski said. "Bringing back a lot of memories."
Similar to Wade, Jasinski said he faced psychological issues from his first 15-month tour in Iraq. However, he said it was not until after he was stop-lossed and facing his second deployment that he decided to go AWOL.
"I knew I couldn't perform my duties as a soldier, but they ignored it," he said. "Finally I made the decision while I was on leave before deployment to go AWOL. I decided the college benefits, the money was not worth my sanity, my health, or my life."
Former soldier Chuck Luther is the founder of the organization Disposable Warriors. As part of the organization, Luther provides help for soldiers who are in situations similar to Wade's.
"We have a large amount of AWOL cases; the rest are soldiers that are currently there that possibly if nobody intervened they would go AWOL," Luther said.
He said he has handled more than 175 cases across the country so far with more than 70 active cases.
"It's not something that can't be taken over and fixed," Luther said. "But there is help out there, and AWOL is seriously the last resort, and it shouldn't ever get to that point."
As part of the work he does, Luther works with several military posts as well. He said he has seen some positive changes with the command willing to work with their soldiers.
"The last six months here at Fort Hood it has changed dramatically," he said.
According to Wade's lawyer, who works for the New York based GI and veterans rights advocacy group Citizen Soldier, the ideal scenario in Wade's case would be to be discharged with medical benefits so he can receive treatment for PTSD.
However, there is always a possibility that Wade could face jail time for going AWOL.
According to the Army, 327 soldiers were prosecuted and convicted last year for going AWOL.