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Marine vets join search for missing man

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  • Marine vets join search for missing man

    ‘It takes a Marine to find a Marine,’ one volunteer says
    By By GREG MARTIN, The Charlotte Sun

    Tuesday, February 12, 2008

    A loose-knit group of volunteers, most of them former Marines who faced combat in Vietnam, has assembled this week to continue a ground search for a fellow Marine veteran who fled — apparently from phantom enemies — into a sparsely developed area of Deep Creek more than a week ago.

    The volunteers are patrolling along the Peace River, checking vacant buildings and conducting foot patrols on remote trails through the brush.

    They’re searching for any sign of Eric W. Hall, 24.

    Originally from Indiana, Hall fled from his aunt’s Deep Creek house Feb. 3. Medically retired from the Marine Corps in 2005 after a roadside bomb caused a traumatic injury to his left leg, Hall suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome.

    He was experiencing a “flashback” and thought people were “after him” at the time he disappeared that afternoon, his family told police.

    Equipped with flashlights and maps, some of the former Marines have even paired up to walk remote trails at night. They were out until well after 3 a.m. Tuesday, said searcher Charlie Shaughnessy, a Port Charlotte resident who served in Vietnam with the U.S. Marines.

    “He’s a Marine,” Shaughnessy said. “It takes a Marine to find a Marine.”

    The volunteers have pointed out Hall would have been trained on survival tactics. If he didn’t want to be found, he’d lay low during daylight hours and scavenge during the night.

    His mother, Becky Hall, however, said she just wants her son to contact her to tell her he’s all right.

    Becky Hall traveled from Indiana to help locate her son. She was working this week to organize the volunteer searchers from an ad hoc post at the Deep Creek Park.

    The ground search is continuing despite the fact the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office concluded that Hall left the area. The agency reached that conclusion after 30 deputies searched the area extensively Friday without success, said sheriff’s spokesman Bob Carpenter.

    The sheriff’s office also granted approval to sheriff’s pilot Mark Brownie to fly over the area in the agency’s Vietnam-vintage “Huey” helicopter Sunday.

    Hueys, which are symbolic of rescue to Vietnam veterans, are still used in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Hall served two tours of combat duty, Carpenter said. Brownie had suggested the Huey be used to lure Hall out of hiding, he said.

    The volunteers are also trying to call Hall out without scaring him away.

    Thomas “Cajun” McCarthy, a former Marine who served in Vietnam, said he shouts Hall’s name followed by the words “Bravo Rescue Team!” McCarthy’s hoping Hall will then understand the team’s “friendly.”

    “He is back in the worst time of his life,” said McCarthy. “This kid is deep under somewhere. It’s tearing my heart out because I know what this kid’s going through.”

    McCarthy said he has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder stemming from his personal combat experience.

    Symptoms include feeling like the traumatic event is happening again, trouble sleeping or nightmares, not feeling close to people, becoming easily angered, and feeling guilty because others died when you lived, according to the Medline Plus Web site.

    Some 30 percent of Vietnam veterans and about 10 percent of 1991 Gulf War veterans developed symptoms. But the number of combat soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder has tripled since 2001, according to a recent study published by the British Medical Journal.

    “This is just the tip of the iceberg,” McCarthy warned.

    He predicts an epidemic of the syndrome because many Iraq veterans had been ordered to extend their tours, thus prolonging their stress.

    Tuesday, McCarthy and another fellow Marine veteran, who identified himself only as “Animal,” drove around some streets behind the Visani comedy club off Kings Highway near Loveland Boulevard. They were searching in that area because that’s where a witness may have seen Hall for the last time, McCarthy said.

    The witness was a woman who was seated on a bench behind the club Thursday night. A man, walking with a limp, sat down next to her and apologized because he “smelled bad,” according to McCarthy.

    That lead is one of more than 100 reported to the Sheriff’s Office, Carpenter said.

    Hall was wearing blue jeans, a plaid shirt and a black leather jacket when last seen by his family.

    He fled his aunt’s home around 2 p.m. Feb. 3 on a Yamaha motorcycle. The bike was recovered a short while later, abandoned near Sulstone Drive and Pasadena Terrace in Harbour Heights.

    After a brush fire erupted a short while later in the same area, authorities recovered his motorcycle helmet and a pair of black socks, according to his mother.

    Today, the Southwest Florida K-9 Search unit plans to send several handlers and dogs to continue the search, weather permitting, said Mike Bodah, director of the unit.

    - - -

    To help: Anyone interested in helping with search efforts for Eric W. Hall can call Becky Hall at 502-500-7732. Anyone with information on Hall’s whereabouts is asked to call the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office at 941-639-0013.

    E-mail Greg Martin at