State News

Missing Bragg soldier found in Arkansas

Posted February 19, 2009 11:31 a.m. EST
Updated February 19, 2009 5:19 p.m. EST

— 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.