Tripler plans to release soldier who held off Hawaii police in standoff
Sergeant in standoff could be released by Tripler tomorrow
By Rob Perez
Advertiser Staff Writer
A Schofield Barracks soldier who was hospitalized last week after threatening suicide during an 18-hour standoff with police is scheduled to be released as soon as tomorrow despite concerns from his family that he is not ready.
Stephanie Kerry, the mother of Sgt. Jesse Kerry, said her son still is having trouble dealing with the traumatic effects from deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq and questioned whether the military has provided adequate treatment for him and many other soldiers in similar situations.
"I think Jesse and other soldiers like him are battling things that require more time," she said. "This is extremely serious, and people need to realize that."
A spokeswoman for Tripler Army Medical Center, where Kerry was taken for psychiatric evaluation after the June 30 standoff in Waipahu, said federal law prohibited her from commenting on individual cases. But the hospital issued a general statement: "Every patient is assessed individually. Based upon clinical evaluation, a personalized treatment plan is given, which works toward a discharge date."
In a phone interview from her Valley, Ala., home yesterday, Stephanie Kerry said she was told by her son's physician Monday that the soldier probably would be released tomorrow.
She said that when she expressed concern that her son wasn't ready to be released, the doctor told her the military can't hold someone for an involuntary psychiatric evaluation for more than 72 hours.
Stephanie Kerry said her son told her previously that he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and that the effects are so serious that she believes he needs more treatment. She wasn't sure whether he would be able to stay at Tripler beyond tomorrow, even if he asked to do so.
Since Jesse Kerry's 2004-05 tour in Afghanistan and a 2006-07 deployment to Iraq, where he witnessed two friends in his convoy killed by a roadside bomb, the 23-year-old married man and father of a son has been drinking more and battling depression and nightmares, his mother said.
apparent suicide try
About two weeks before the standoff, which forced the evacuation of nearby homes in a Royal Kunia townhouse complex, police were called to Kerry's home because of a domestic dispute, several neighbors said as the standoff unfolded. His wife was escorted away, and the woman and son later left for the Mainland, the neighbors said.
When Kerry surrendered to police and the standoff ended, he had cuts on both wrists.
Stephanie Kerry said her son started having psychological problems after his deployment to Afghanistan and had a serious incident in May 2006 that prompted his command to "red flag" his file.
Yet he was deployed to Iraq a few months later, she said.
An Army spokeswoman said she could not comment on Kerry's case because of privacy laws. But the spokeswoman said that, speaking generally, a soldier's file can be flagged for many reasons ranging from obesity to misconduct.
Stephanie Kerry said she didn't know whether her son was formally diagnosed with PTSD, but he told her he had the disorder and was prescribed sleep medication and an anti-depressant. She said her son didn't seem to be getting the care he needed, and his current treatment didn't appear to reflect the seriousness of PTSD and what happened last week.
"It seems as though he's just being fast-tracked" out of the hospital, she said.
When Kerry's father, Freelon, asked his son in a phone conversation Monday night whether he was doing OK, the soldier replied, "Not really," Stephanie Kerry said. After a short pause, she said, her son added, "Yeah, I'm OK."
About 20 percent of military service members who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan report symptoms of PTSD or major depression, according to a study released in April by the RAND Corp., a nonprofit research organization.
Returning soldiers who have trouble dealing with the stresses of war have access to a variety of services, ranging from outpatient programs to intensive in-patient treatment. But critics nationally say the military's mental health network falls far short of what is needed, partly because of a shortage of personnel. Also, many troops simply don't seek treatment.
A specialist with the nonprofit Helping Hands Hawai'i said the symptoms Kerry's mother described were similar to what many other soldiers have described.
"The battle does not end on the battlefield," said William "Clay" Park, a Helping Hands case manager and Vietnam war veteran. "It comes home with you. A lot of these guys self-medicate themselves with alcohol or drugs."
Reach Rob Perez at firstname.lastname@example.org.