Army Ranger killed himself to avoid another tour, wife says
August 24, 2011
SEATTLE -- Army Ranger Jared Hagemann had served at least six 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 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. She insists that the next deployment would have been his ninth; the Army said today it would have been his seventh, and that he had just re-enlisted for another six years in January. The cause of the discrepancy was not immediately clear.
The Army hasn't yet determined the manner of death, said Maj. Brian DeSantis, a spokesman with the Army's 75th Ranger Regiment in Fort Benning, Ga. The Army has launched two investigations to determine how he died and the factors leading up to his death. Investigators are reviewing Hagemann's medical history and looking into what diagnosis or treatment was made and whether policies were followed.
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 has not held a battalion memorial for Hagemann, but Hagemann's unit participated in his funeral and gave him full military honors, DeSantis said.
His widow thought more should have been done: "It's ridiculous," she said. "He's served his time. Every soldier deserves a memorial."
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 drank more each time, had mood swings and 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 advocating for Joppa-Hagemann.
In 2010, Hagemann received a glowing evaluation with top marks; raters noted his unparalleled loyalty to the Army and Rangers, and his outstanding potential. Later that year, he would return to Afghanistan for another combat tour. The 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 such request from him.
"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."
More on soldier suicides
-- The Associated Press