Missing Vet May Think He's In Iraq
February 10, 2008
CHARLOTTE COUNTY - Relatives think wounded Iraq war veteran Eric W. Hall, missing for a week, may be wandering in the woods, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and under the impression that he is still fighting in Iraq.
Family and friends who spent Saturday searching for Hall fear the 24-year-old is covering his tracks, thinking he is in a war zone.
Courtney Birgle said if Eric Hall does not want rescuers to find him, they won't.
On Saturday, Hall's family printed fliers, drove around and talked to anyone who may have seen him.
"He's a Marine," said Birgle, who is married to Hall's cousin. "He knows how to survive off the land and find food. We don't feel he is dead. We want him back with us."
The family is planning a search party today and is asking for help. The group will gather at 8 a.m. at Gilchrist Park, 400 W. Retta Esplanade, Punta Gorda.
The family is asking anyone with an all-terrain vehicle, heavy-duty truck, dogs, helicopter or any other search aids to help out. They think people with military experience also can help with tracking and understanding a Marine's thought process.
On Friday, thinking that Hall will 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 the search.
They focused on the Harbour Heights area, a community between the Peace River and Interstate 75.
Hall disappeared from another cousin's Deep Creek home Feb. 3. He had recently stopped taking his pain medication for a leg injury suffered in Fallujah, Iraq, three years ago when an explosive device nearly blew off his leg.
He has pins, rods and plates in his leg, family said. Hall also walks with a limp.
Since his injury, Hall has been fighting with the military for $4,700 in vacation pay. The Department of Veterans Affairs rated Hall as partially disabled, which limited him to $700 a month instead of the $2,500 in full disability pay.
Family members think he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and said that, before he disappeared, Hall was using his hand like a gun to shoot at imaginary people.
"He just got up and said he had to go," Birgle said about the day Hall went missing. "He's a son, a grandson, a cousin and a brother. We are not going to stop until we get him home."
Charlotte County sheriff's officials found Hall's motorcycle Feb. 3 at Sulstone Drive and Pasadena Terrace. Birgle said neighbors heard a man yelling in the woods near that area, and there also was a fire in the woods behind their home that they think Hall started.
Near the fire they found a Marlboro Light butt, the same brand Hall smokes.
They also found a cactus that appeared to be split down the middle for its water.
Searchers today plan to cover wooded areas in Port Charlotte, DeSoto County, North Port and Arcadia. The search will continue until evening.