State News

Missing Bragg soldier found in Arkansas

Posted February 19, 2009

— An Army specialist suffering from post-traumatic stress has been found in Arkansas, more than a week after he went missing from his North Carolina base, authorities said.

Spc. Joseph E. Putnam, 22, allowed deputies to take him into custody Wednesday night without a struggle at a mobile home park in Arkansas, Hot Spring County Investigator Robert Terry said Thursday. Deputies served involuntary commitment papers on Putnam and took him to a Malvern, Ark., hospital, where he was being held under observation, Terry said.

One of Putnam's friends called a deputy Wednesday and let law enforcement officers know where the missing soldier was, Terry said. Putnam had walked out of a Veterans Administration hospital at Fort Bragg, where he was receiving treatment for the stress disorder, Terry said.

Putnam was last seen Feb. 10 at a Fayetteville gas station after a night of drinking with friends. His debit card was used at two local convenience stores later that day, prompting a police search for the man who used it.

Investigators located the man, whose name hasn't been released, and determined Putnam gave him the debit card and his personal identification number before leaving town.

A member of the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division, Putnam previously served a tour in Iraq, Terry said. His division is one of several scheduled to head to Afghanistan this year as part of an effort to quell a resurgence of Taliban fighters.

"He didn't talk to us (Wednesday)," Terry told The Associated Press. "He was very quiet so we didn't push anything."

Angela Stanford, Putnam's mother, previously said her son is a third-generation military member. He apparently took a bus from North Carolina to North Little Rock and told her in a phone call that he wanted help from the VA.

However, Putnam wasn't there when family members arrived.

Putnam's family lives in Bismarck, Ark., southwest of Little Rock.

"I haven't seen him," his stepfather, Charles Stanford, said Thursday morning. "All I know is they have got him."

Terry said sheriff's deputies had contacted the Army, but didn't know whether they'd take Putnam into custody.

The Army considers Putnam to be absent without leave, so he could face Article 15 penalties, including up to 30 days in custody. His chain of command has to review the circumstances before determining what, if any, discipline he'll receive.

"We're just glad to hear he's alive and OK. Right now, we are trying to figure out what his situation is," said Maj. Michelle Baldanza, a Fort Bragg spokeswoman.


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  • cam7002 Feb 19, 2009

    Why are people spreading misinformation here? Do you even know what AWOL is, or is that just a term you heard on MASH? You don't know that he is AWOL and, even if he is, he still has a number of legal options available. Furthermore, unless he is gone for a considerable period of time (>30 days), the penalty is often non-judicial punishment, not a court-martial. He could even keep his rank. Even with a court-martial, he could be acquitted. If he is convicted at a court-martial, the penalty could be something other than a bad conduct discharge. Moreover, the care at the VA is better than many of you know, especially in areas like PTSD and other mental health issues. If you don't know what you are talking about, it's better that you not spread misinformation. If you are military or a vet, and you are reading these posts and you are confused, call an atty, a veterans service organization, or get in touch with the military law task force at

  • cam7002 Feb 19, 2009

    kimmyrn6, you are wrong –VA treatment doesn’t require an honorable discharge. Many soldiers, sailors, Marines and Air Force don’t receive an honorable discharge until years after they leave active duty because they are still in the IRR. To be a "veteran" eligible for VA care, one must have been discharged "under conditions other than dishonorable." Under VA regs, administrative discharges characterized by the armed services as "Honorable" or "General Under Honorable Conditions" qualify, and punitive discharges ("Dishonorable" or "Bad Conduct") issued by general courts-martial are disqualifying. The in-between categories, administrative "Other than Honorable" discharges, and punitive "Bad Conduct Discharges" issued by special courts-martial, may or may not be disqualifying for purposes of general VA benefit eligibility or VA health benefits eligibility. Whether a discharge was issued "under conditions other than dishonorable," requires VA to apply the standards in 38 CFR 3.12.

  • backwards Feb 19, 2009

    Another case that uses the post traumatic stress excuse. To many young kids going in for the college money and not taking what could happen to them seriously. Don't enlist if you don't wanna take the chance of being deployed. I was in the military and thought long and hard the risks that it included. I was up fo rthe challenge and had no problems.

  • gccmp Feb 19, 2009

    My prayers go out to the young man. I too am glad he was found unharmed physically. I hope he can get the help he needs for his PTSS. We must keep in mind that he is just 22 years old. I have a son that age and I can promise you I don't think of him as being a wise man. He's still a maturing young man that turns to his Dad and me for help in making big decisions in his life. I am more than double this young man's age and I know that I can't begin to imagine the things that our young men and women have seen in Iraq. We must find ways to support these soldiers!

    I thank each and every soldier out there for all the sacrifices you make or have made on my behalf!!

  • happy Feb 19, 2009

    somestuff, today is my son's 18th birthday so this was especially good news to get.

    I can't imagine the turmoil that his mom went through while he was missing. And for those that say there was a VA in Fayetteville, if he isn't thinking correctly do you think that matters? Obviously, something drove him towards home and help. Praying for him and his family.

  • rmgirl Feb 19, 2009

    This story has really changed since he was first missing last week.

  • scarletindurham Feb 19, 2009

    There is a VA in Fayetteville. He didn't need to go AWOL.

  • teacher-mom Feb 19, 2009

    Any help is etter than no help which is what he will receive in NC. Unless he has some excellent insurance, he is out of luck unless he is pregnant. Something needs to be done.

  • teacher-mom Feb 19, 2009

    I am thankful that he is okay. I hope he is ale to get the help he needs. That is a lucky family.

  • garnertoy Feb 19, 2009

    god help him and hope he gets well