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Thread: Iraq echoes real for lost Marine
02-09-08, 09:52 AM #1
Iraq echoes real for lost Marine
Article published Feb 9, 2008
Iraq echoes real for lost Marine
By KIM HACKETT
Family members believe that wounded Iraq war veteran Eric W. Hall, missing since Sunday, may be wandering in the woods, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and under the impression that he is still fighting in Iraq.
Believing that Hall, a former Marine, will only respond to military authority, 10 former Marines joined Hall's brother, Justin Hall, who is in the Navy, and the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office in searching for him on Friday, five days after he disappeared.
The search focused on the Harbour Heights area, a community between the Peace River and Interstate 75.
"My biggest fear is that something has happened and we're not going to pull him out with a heartbeat," said Adam Birge, 24, Hall's cousin. "He is a Marine and he is trained to survive.
"The only thing that may bring him out is hearing 'Marine, stand down,' from a voice he recognizes."
Hall disappeared from another cousin's Deep Creek home on Sunday. He had been staying there since moving from Jeffersonville, Ind., a few weeks ago.
He recently stopped taking pain medication. Relatives said he started acting strangely a few days before he disappeared, using his hand as a gun and shooting at imaginary people.
"It was almost like he had a speaker in his ear," like the ones Marines have in their helmets in Iraq, Birge said. "He would talk to the microphone on his shoulder and he started saying there were people were out there. It was short little bursts, almost a phone call discussion. Sometimes he remembered doing it and sometimes he didn't."
On Sunday, Hall was at the house with his grandmother when he had a flashback and thought someone was shooting at him, Birge said. He left the house, got on his motorcycle and has not been seen since.
The Charlotte County Sheriff's Office found Hall's motorcycle on Sunday at Sulstone Drive and Pasadena Terrace, and have since been searching the area. On Friday, they used K-9 units and a Sarasota County Sheriff's Office helicopter.
As word got around, a group of former Marines volunteered to help, along with Hall's brother, who is in the Navy and stationed in Norfolk, Va. Their cousin hopes a Blackhawk helicopter can be found to search the area, because the helicopter's sound is one that Hall is trained to respond to.
The former Marines found footprints in the woods consistent with Hall's gait but have not found any other sign of him. Hall has a noticeable limp, Birge said, because his left leg was nearly blown off by an explosive device in Fallujah, Iraq, three years ago.
"He has a lot of pins, plates and screws," Birge said. "They removed a stomach muscle and put it into his leg to give him a chance to walk."
Equally traumatic for Hall was seeing his best friend killed by enemy fire in the same battle, Birge said. Hall was nearby when his friend was decapitated.
According to The Evening News & The Tribune in southern Indiana, Hall underwent 18 surgeries following the blast and was hospitalized for 13 weeks.
The Marine Corps gave him a medical retirement in 2006, the newspaper reported.
While trying to recover, Hall was also struggling with the military, seeking $4,700 in vacation pay. The Department of Veterans Affairs had rated him as only partially disabled, limiting him to $700 in monthly disability payments. Full disability would give him $2,500 monthly, the article said.
"If I did not have a family, I would be homeless," he told the newspaper.
After Hall left the Marine Corps, he moved to Indiana and lived with his parents for a few months before moving into his own apartment.
He received counseling and medical care, and he began training to be an EMT. Hall found it difficult to adjust to life in his hometown with friends who had never left and had not seen the things he had seen, Birge said.
Hall moved to Port Charlotte about three weeks ago to be near Birge and other family members and "to get a fresh start," Birge said.
"He was back to who he was," Birge said. "He's a gung-ho Marine, but the quiet type. He was always trying to make you smile and happy about life, or it seemed that way."
Hall stopped taking his medication because he believed it made him feel out of control, his cousin said.
According to The New England Journal of Medicine, one in six veterans returning from Iraq suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
HAVE YOU SEEN ERIC W. HALL?
Hall is a white male, 5 feet 8 inches tall, 160 pounds, with blond hair, blue eyes, blue jeans, and a plaid shirt. He has a scar on his left leg, and numerous tattoos. He was wearing a black leather jacket with "In Memory of Pops" on the bottom. Call (941) 639-2101 if you may have seen Hall.
02-10-08, 08:57 PM #2
Friends, families, and fellow Marines help search for missing man
By WINK News
Story Created: Feb 10, 2008 at 11:42 AM EST
Story Updated: Feb 10, 2008 at 11:44 AM EST
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. - One week after Marine Eric Hall disappeared, one Charlotte County family is hoping Sunday will be the day he is found.
His family is worried about him because they say he suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, because he served in Iraq.
"One of my brothers is lost," says Norm Burch. The search for 24 year old missing marine Eric Hall is personal for some like fellow marine Norm Burch, "I consider him missing in action."
Hall who was injured in Iraq, disappeared a week ago. Family members say he suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and may think he's in combat.
"He thinks people are after him, that's what he said before he left, before he disappeared," says Hall's cousin Adam Birge.
Burch, who served in Vietnam, says he sufferers from post traumatic stress disorder too. "You don't trust anybody, ya can't sleep you have nightmares. You can't be around crowds," Burch explains.
About thirty people organized at Gilcrest Park for a search that will go all day.
Hall's family is asking for anyone's help but especially from those with military experience.
"They know the state of mind, they know how a Marine thinks and how a Marine operates," Birge told WINK News.
Everyone's hoping to find hall soon. They say his skill as a Marine, to live off the land, gives him better chance of being alive. "Everybody please help us we want to bring out troop home," Birge asks.
02-12-08, 09:28 AM #3
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Parents of missing Iraq veteran worry, wait for word
Florida police search for ex-Jeff man
By Ben Zion Hershberg
By Ben Zion Hershberg
Kevin Hall sits by the telephone in his Jeffersonville home waiting for a call from his missing son, who suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome after being wounded while serving with the Marines in Iraq.
Eric Hall, 24, was last seen a week ago Sunday talking to his grandmother, who was visiting Port Charlotte, Fla., where he had been living for a couple of weeks, his father said.
Hall had been taking medicine to control the hallucinations and other effects of post-traumatic stress, his father said, but had stopped early last month.
As he was talking with his grandmother, Hall began acting as if he had a weapon in his hand and was talking on a radio, his father said yesterday.
"He told her they were surrounded, dropped down and prayed and ran out and jumped on his motorcycle," Kevin Hall said.
The motorcycle was found about a mile away, lying on the road and still running, said Hall, maintenance manager of the Clark County Government Building in Jeffersonville.
The Charlotte County Sheriff's Department has received numerous calls about possible sightings of Eric Hall, but searches by police and volunteers have failed to locate him.
"If someone sees him, at least tell him to call somebody to tell us he's OK," his father said. "He's not done anything wrong."
An interview with the elder Hall at his home on Graves Drive was interrupted several time by phone calls. He quickly answered each time but got no new information.
His wife, Becky, is in Florida helping to coordinate the search. Kevin Hall returned so that if his son attempted to get home or call, someone would be there.
"I think he's around the homeless people" who live in the mostly deserted area where the motorcycle was found, Hall said. He said his son always was a quiet, private person.
"I don't think he's made contacts. I think he's watching to see how the homeless people live," Hall said.
Because Eric Hall was a scout as a Marine, he has been trained to live off the land and stay hidden from anyone who might be searching for him, Kevin Hall said. Experts say there's no way to know how long the hallucinations and anxiety might last, he said.
Eric Hall was severely wounded by a roadside bomb three years ago when he was on patrol in Fallujah. The explosion tore a piece of flesh the size of a basketball from his left hip, broke the upper bone in his leg and caused nerve damage to his right arm. It also killed a friend in his unit.
After extensive treatment, including hospitalization and numerous surgeries at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., his son was making good progress physically, Kevin Hall said.
But his mental condition was still fragile, and he had been unable to find a job. Eric Hall was hoping to get a new start in Florida, where he had found a home with a friend that wasn't far from family friends and relatives, his father said.
After three years of constant worry, Kevin Hall said, he and his wife had decided to take a cruise near Fort Lauderdale when Eric moved to Florida. They learned of his disappearance last week, the day before they returned.
The situation has left him and his wife worried, anxious and feeling unable to do anything to help, he said. "It's in God's hands," Kevin Hall said.
Becky Hall, interviewed by telephone yesterday, said police searched near where her son's motorcycle was found Friday. The area is dense with trees and brush, and the searchers found nothing, she said.
Additional searches were conducted over the weekend and yesterday with volunteer help and the use of helicopters and dogs, she said.
"We need to hear from him," Becky Hall said.
Bob Carpenter, a spokesman for the Charlotte County sheriff, said the department was following up on calls about sightings.
Kevin Hall said anyone with information about his son should call the Charlotte sheriff's department at (941) 639-0013.
Reporter Ben Zion Hershberg can be reached at (812) 949-4032.
02-14-08, 08:43 PM #4
Dogs, ex-soldiers search for missing Marine
Those concerned include soldier who saved his life
No one can know what 24-year-old Eric W. Hall has been going through since the disabled former Marine fled his aunt's Deep Creek house -- apparently suffering a "flashback" -- 11 days ago.
But Jared Briggs of Newport, Pa., may have a clue.
Briggs served in a different platoon with Hall's company in Afghanistan and was by his side in June 2005, when Hall was nearly killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq.
In fact, Briggs may have saved Hall's life. Briggs and another soldier worked to bandage Hall on a Fallujah road the night he was injured.
Briggs, who was not a medic, provided the aid because the medic with Hall's five-member platoon was in shock and incapacitated.
"The (medical) corpsman had that 'thousand-yard stare,' if you want to call it that," Briggs said. "He dumped all his medical supplies out of his bag on the ground. Cpl. Long and I assisted Hall. We used about seven or eight bandages just on his hip alone."
Briggs contacted the Sun after learning of Hall's disappearance from a TV broadcast this week. He said he wanted to find out how he could help locate the missing man.
Briggs subsequently learned from Hall's family that there was little more he could do that wasn't already being done.
The Charlotte County Sheriff's Office conducted an extensive ground search Friday.
Other volunteers, many of them combat veterans, have continued to search, in some cases throughout the night, for Hall in the undeveloped areas of the Deep Creek subdivision.
Wednesday, the Southwest Florida K-9 Rescue Team joined the search. A half-dozen handlers and their dogs traced Hall's scent around in circles in an area off Sulstone Drive, where he was last known to have been.
The dogs also picked up his scent in a wooded area behind the Visani comedy club off Kings Highway. That trail led down a sidewalk along the highway to a commercial building.
The team planned to continue searching that area for Hall until dusk, said D.J. Beddow, team spokeswoman.
Hall's mother, Becky Hall, said she plans to discuss options for continuing the search today.
Briggs said he wanted to send his Marine comrade a message, on the chance that Hall might read it in the pages of this newspaper.
"Hey man, you took the blunt of that (ambush), and I feel for you," Briggs said. "I miss you and I'm worried about you. And I know your family really wants you to come home. There's a lot of help you can get. I know nobody really knows what you're going through, and I was there."
Both Hall and Briggs had served in the First Battalion, 6th Marines, Bravo Company, but in different platoons.
After serving combat duty in Afghanistan, both men re-upped and their units were dispatched to Iraq.
Both men found themselves patrolling parallel streets on the same night in Fallujah in June 2005.
By then, most of the city had been reduced to bullet-riddled rubble by a counter-insurgency assault waged the Marines the previous fall.
Both Hall's and Briggs' platoons were on nighttime foot patrols with units of the Iraqi national army or police, Briggs recalled.
The soldiers were patrolling without vehicles in the interest of stealth, he explained.
The explosion of the IED -- improvised explosive device -- was followed by automatic machine-gun fire from insurgents, Briggs said. The Iraqi army unit fired back to secure a perimeter.
"As soon as their ambush was over, we went to help them," he said.
The blast had killed one Marine and had blown part of Hall's hip off, Briggs said.
"There were only four Marines and a corpsman; all the rest were Iraqi army patrol," he recalled. "So they were pretty much all alone down there and you take out two Marines, you would have only two Marines left for security. They were so shook up they were in shock and, basically, they couldn't function."
"(Hall) didn't think he was going to live -- and I didn't think he was going to live," he added. "It was the worst (injury) I've seen in my two deployments."
Hall was evacuated on a vehicle to a Fallujah hospital, Briggs said.
Tim Baker, a veteran who spent 10 years with the U.S. Army's special forces, volunteered his skills Tuesday and Wednesday to try to locate Hall.
Attired in military fatigues and carrying a hefty rucksack, Baker spent Tuesday night prowling the woods of Deep Creek. He said he set up two "ambush points" with equipment to detect movement.
The only movement he encountered, however, was a rogue hog, he said.
But Baker said he found evidence suggesting Hall had been in survival mode in the brush. The evidence included a rabbit carcass that was missing its heart and liver, he said.
"That's how they're trained," Baker said. "Marines have to eat the heart and liver before they can eat the rest."
Baker planned to continue searching Wednesday night.
"I want this kid home," he said. "We never leave anybody behind."
You can e-mail Greg Martin at email@example.com.
By GREG MARTIN
02-14-08, 08:47 PM #5
Search for missing Marine now nationwide
(Last updated: February 14, 2008 5:31 PM)
By GREG MARTIN
A search team's bloodhound working to track a disabled former Marine who disappeared while suffering a “flashback” from his aunt's Deep Creek home 12 days ago led his handler to an area where tractor-trailer trucks park behind a Port Charlotte gas station Wednesday night.
That suggests the missing man, Eric W. Hall, 24, could have caught a ride with a trucker and departed the area, theorized Mike Bodah, executive director for the Southwest Florida K-9 Search Unit.
However, Bodah emphasized that the dogs can't tell him what happened to Hall. The handlers can only try to interpret the way the dogs are acting, he explained.
“The dogs can see things we can't,” he said.
So, he said the team has advised the Hall family it would be prudent to continue local search operations until Eric's location is confirmed. The team also offered to return to conduct more tracking, if another area of interest is identified, Bodah said.
Meanwhile, the missing man's family and others are taking steps to expand the search to both more local areas and nationwide, according to Becky Hall, Eric's mother.
“We just want him to let us know he's okay and he's not hurt,” said his mother. “That's the big thing.”
Sheriff's deputies and volunteers, many of them combat veterans who empathize with Hall, have been trying to locate him since Feb. 3, when he left his aunt's house on his motorcycle.
The motorcycle and his helmet were found in a wooded area off Sulstone Drive a short while later. But, Hall hasn't been seen since.
After serving in both Afghanistan and Iraq, Hall was medically retired from the Marines after getting seriously injured by a roadside bomb in Fallujah in June 2005.
His mental state had deteriorated recently, according to a Charlotte County Sheriff's report. He had been acting like he was shooting an invisible gun at people who were not in the house, and stated that people were “coming to get him,” the family told deputies.
Earlier Wednesday, the K-9 team tracked Hall in a circle around the area where his motorcycle was abandoned. The team also put the dogs on a trail in a wooded area behind the Visani comedy club.
From there, the dogs led the team north on the sidewalk along Kings Highway to a commercial area at Peachland Boulevard.
After one of the dogs, a bloodhound named “George,” tracked Hall's scent to a truck parking area behind the Shell Station, the team put two other dogs, a bloodhound named “Clark” and a yellow lab named “Hutch,” on the trail consecutively, and they seemed to confirm the results.
All three dogs first cut through a Burger King restaurant's parking lot, then circled around the gas station, then around the Waffle House restaurant.
All three then ended up stopping between two semi trucks behind the gas station, said Bodah. The trucks had their engines idling as if that was a place they could park to rest, he said.
“So, what we can say is that the track ends there at this point in time,” he said. “Does that mean that he got into a semi truck? I can't answer that question. But we have advised the family it would perhaps be wise to put flyers out at truck stops.”
The searches have helped rule out some possibilities, Becky Hall indicated.
“There's one thing we can say, we found no evidence that he's out there (in the woods) roaming around,” she said.
Volunteers are now putting up flyers about Eric's disappearance along U.S. 41, she said.
Also, the family is exploring whether an alert for truckers to be on the lookout for Eric could be broadcast on “trucker radio,” Becky Hall said.
The family has also listed Eric as missing with the Cue Center for Missing Persons, a national organization, she said.
Some of the efforts are coming unsolicited.
Ronald A. Salvi of North Port said he contacted his daughter, a media chief for the U.S. Marines at the Pentagon, after reading stories about the search for Hall.
“The Marines now have a nationwide lookout and alert for him,” Salvi said, in an e-mail to the Sun.
An attempt to contact his daughter, Sgt. Christina C. Delai, for comment was unsuccessful.
Thomas “Cajun” McCarthy, a local advocate for homeless people who has volunteered to help search, suggested the family also contact major truck stops because they have a system to advertise information to truckers nationwide.
In fact, the company Transcore provides such digital display advertising at 1,200 truck stops nationwide at a cost of $500 for two weeks. Typically, the system is used to notify truckers where they could find loads to haul, but it is also used to locate missing trucks, and sometimes, people, said Melissa Tooley, company spokeswoman.
The Southwest Florida K-9 team has assisted area police agencies in numerous searches, including one about a year ago for an ill man who walked away from a Fort Myers nursing home. The dogs led their handlers to a bus stop, Bodah said.
The team notified Fort Myers Police who checked with the bus driver, who said he dropped the man off at a Walmart store. The police then went to the store.
“They found him lying on a bench in diabetic shock,” Bodah said.
“We have tremendous confidence in our dogs,” he said. “That being said, dogs are sometimes like people; on any particular day, you just don't know, depending on the weather, the wind, whether they're going to be able to pick up the scent.”
The team, which has traveled as far as Indiana to conduct searches, works on on a volunteer basis. Bodah earns his living as a certified public accountant.
“We love to be with our dogs and that's certainly a part of it,” he said. “But in the end, it's really and truly about trying to unite people with their families.
“I can't tell you the satisfaction involved even when you find a body,” he added. “People want their loved ones home.”
People with information about Eric Hall's location can call Becky Hall at (502)500-7732 or the Sheriff's Office at (941)639-0013.
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