Sunday, August 28, 2011

Local News: Widow says army Ranger killed self to avoid 9th tour

Noah Hagemann, 6, is joined by his mother, Ashley Joppa-Hagemann, as he peers over a picture of his father, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jared Hagemann.

Army Ranger Jared Hagemann had served eight combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, with another deployment to Afghanistan looming.

But the 25-year-old staff sergeant dreaded the prospect of another tour. He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and found the pressures of another a ninth deployment so overwhelming, his wife said, that he repeatedly threatened to take his own life.

On June 28, he was found dead, a gunshot wound to his head, in a training area at Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle, where he was based.

"He wanted out," Ashley Joppa-Hagemann said. "They should have let him out,".

Hagemann's wife is convinced it was suicide because she said he had repeatedly threatened to kill himself in the final months of his life.

The Army has not yet determined whether it was suicide, said Maj. Brian DeSantis, a spokesman with the Army's 75th Ranger Regiment in Fort Benning, Ga. He said the Army has launched two investigations into Hagemann's death to determine how he died and the factors leading up to his death.

Joppa-Hagemann said the military knew about her husband's mental health problems but did little to help him. "So many people knew there were issues. He sought help and nobody was paying attention," said the 25-year-old widow, who lives in Yelm with the couple's two young sons.

The Army says Hagemann's medical history is being reviewed as part of the investigation. The investigating officer will look into what diagnosis or treatment was made and whether policies were followed, DeSantis said.

The Army has not held a military memorial for Hagemann, and the Army Rangers said Tuesday there are no plans to hold a battalion memorial for him.

"It's ridiculous. He's served his time. Every soldier deserves a memorial," Joppa-Hagemann said.

DeSantis said Hagemann's unit participated in his funeral and gave him full military honors. "The unit was able to pay their respects, so an additional (ceremony) was not planned," he said.

Hagemann enlisted in the Army out of high school in 2004 because of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. He stood up for what he believed in, his wife said, and the Rangers to him meant being the first one in, "taking care of the bad guys."

He was charming, outgoing, and commanded everyone's attention when he walked into a room, she said. But after each combat tour, he would return cold, quiet, paranoid, and at times increasingly aggressive and violent. He'd drink more each time, had mood swings and would complain of recurring nightmares, she said.

In 2009, he was admitted for four days to Madigan Army Medical Center for mental health care services and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, she said. He went to counseling for alcoholism but was later told he needed to do it on his own time.

"Soldiers aren't being allowed to take care of their mental health programs," said Seth Menzel, an Army veteran who has been pushing for military accountability and has been advocating for Joppa-Hagemann.

In 2010, he received a glowing evaluation with top marks and raters noting his unparalleled loyalty to the Army and Rangers and outstanding potential. Later that year, he would return to Afghanistan for his eighth combat tour. His eight tours lasted, on average, about four months, according to the Army.

His wife said he was growing increasingly frustrated and repeatedly asked to leave the Rangers unit. The Army's DeSantis said the battalion leadership was not aware of any request for him to leave the unit.

"In the last month, he put a gun to his head three times. He told me every day was a struggle to wake up and want to live," Joppa-Hagemann said. "He said the things he had seen and done, no God would have forgiven him."

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