Jared Hagemann Investigation Reveals Suicide Note and PTSD Diagnosis Kept from Commanders

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Staff Sargent Jared Hagemann left a suicide note. That's one revelation in the findings from the military's investigation into his death, obtained by Seattle Weekly through the Freedom of Information Act. While the note suggests his problems were highly personal, the findings also convey surprising news about how a PTSD diagnosis is handled.

Hagemann's death last summer garnered a slew of media coverage after his wife and anti-war activists blamed the military, saying it had forced the Ranger back to war over his objections and despite his troubled mental health. As we reported in a cover story last year, that narrative wasn't quite accurate (Hagemann voluntarily signed on for another six years during his last deployment) and ignored the momentous marital problems that he repeatedly cited as a source of angst.

He cited them again in what the investigating officer dubbed a suicide note. Here it is, in its entirety (corrected slightly for grammar and spelling):

I'm writing this letter or whatever you may call it, cause I never should have gotten married to my wife. We are both hard-headed and hate it when the other doesn't see it each other's way. That's why I love her and despise this woman with all my heart. There are times such as now that I want to kill myself. And I know what you might be thinking: "only losers kill themselves" and, second, "he's only writing this down for the attention." Not the case. I know....

The note stops in mid-sentence. The documents sent to SW say it was found in Hagemann's "green notebook" but don't specify if that notebook was on the Ranger's dead body, discovered on a Joint Base Lewis-McChord training field with a bullet wound to the head, or somewhere else.

Things were so bad between Hagemann and his wife that at one point, the findings reveal, the Ranger disinherited her in his will. (He nevertheless later named her as the beneficiary on his life insurance policy.)

Still, it seems unlikely that Hagemann's personal life was the only reason for his deteriorating state of mind. This was a man who had been deployed at least six times and, after one tour in 2009, checked himself into JBLM's Madigan Army Medical Center, complaining of "intrusive memories and nightmares." He was diagnosed PTSD.

Yet, according to the investigation findings, Hagemann's commanders did not know of that diagnosis. Madigan staff consider such a diagnosis "personal and confidential," according to the findings.

To some extent, that seems understandable. Many soldiers are afraid of revealing a PTSD diagnosis lest it hurt their career. That, in fact, was the case with Hagemann, according to the findings. And one could imagine that soldiers would be less willing to seek help if they knew their medical records were not confidential.

At the same time, Madigan acknowledged a duty to notify commanders when a soldier is "at risk or there is a concern about fitness for duty."

One might think that PTSD, in and of itself, would raise concerns about fitness for duty. One would also think that Hagemann would be considered at risk given that he came to Madigan talking about thoughts of suicide.

But Madigan classified him as "low risk," and the medical center's behavioral health department later told the Army's investigator that PTSD did not necessarily compromise a soldier's fitness.

The investigator is recommending better communication between medical staff and unit commanders--perhaps something else the Army Medical Command, already conducting a "top-to-bottom" review of PTSD screenings for outgoing sodliers, should look into.

 
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