Eric W. Hall – Corporal, United States Marine Corps

Search effort goes on for missing ex-Marine
8 February 2008

CHARLOTTE COUNTY, FLORIDA — Sheriff's deputies searched the Harbour Heights neighborhood this morning for Eric W. Hall, a 24-year-old ex-Marine who was reported missing earlier this week. K-9 teams, a helicopter crew and a mounted patrol will assist in the search.

Detectives believe Hall may be wearing a leather jacket with a patch on the back with the wording “In Memory – POPS – 9-3-1959 – 5-13-2004.”


According to the Sheriff's Office: Relatives last saw Hall on Sunday at their Deep Creek home. They said he was hallucinating and acting as if he were shooting an invisible gun. His Yamaha motorcycle was found near Sulstone Drive and Pasadena Terrace.

Authorities said Hall suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from a war injury in Iraq three years ago.

Anyone with information in the case is asked to call (941) 639-0013.

The sheriff's office report states that Hall, who served in the Marine Corps, was having flashbacks.

The episodes caused him to complain that people were after him, and to walk around the house pretending to shoot imaginary people with an invisible gun, the report said.

He was last seen on Sunday, wearing blue jeans, a plaid shirt and a black leather jacket decorated with the words “In Memory of Pops.”

He is 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighs 160 pounds, with blond hair, blue eyes, several tattoos and a scar on his left leg.

He walks with a limp because of a 3-year-old war injury and may have post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the report.

Anyone who may have seen Hall is asked to call the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office at (941) 639-2101.

9 March 2008:Officials have confirmed that the body found in a drain pipe in Charlotte County are that of missing Marine Eric Hall. A volunteer found the body less than two miles from his parents home. Hall's family believes a brush fire sent Eric into the drainpipe for cover and he suffocated. His family says at least they have closure now and that he is no longer in pain.  Hall went missing after stopping medication for Post Tramautic Stress Disorder after seeing friends killed while on duty in Iraq. His family hopes to take this tragedy and use it to raise awarness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in veterans coming back from Iraq.


Official Press Release from the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office:
DATE: March 12, 2008
TIME: 10:31 a.m.


A Major Crimes Unit detective of the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office notified the family around 10:00 a.m. this morning that the Medical Examiner's Office has officially identified the body found Sunday in a culvert as that of missing ex-Marine Eric W. Hall. The cause of death has not been determined at this time.

The mother of 24 year old Eric Hall is holding a press conference at noon in the home of a relative in Deep Creek.

The family has scheduled a military memorial service at noon tomorrow (March 13) at the Faith Lutheran Church, 4005 Palm Dr., Punta Gorda.

Veterans pay respects to fallen comrade
Courtesy of the Charlotte Sun-Herald
Thursday, March 13, 2008

Navy jet engine mechanic Justin Hall, brother of Marine Eric Hall, salutes his fallen brother one last time while grandmother Melba Baker, and parents Kevin and Becky Hall, right, mourn Thursday, March 13, 2008 at Faith Lutheran Church in Punta Gorda, Florida. Hall, a missing Iraq War veteran from Jeffersonville, Indiana, went missing in early February. Hall had been wounded in a bomb explosion in June 2005 and later granted medical retirement. He was found dead over the weekend in Charlotte County.

The family of Eric Hall requested that donations in his honor be made to the Semper Fi Fund, which aids injured Marines and their families. Information is available at Donations can also be dropped off at Faith Lutheran Church, 4005 Palm Drive, Punta Gorda.
The veterans came from North Port, Rotonda West and Venice in cars and on motorcycles. They came to the church in Punta Gorda for the memorial of a former Marine who fought in Iraq. They had never met him.

“He’s a veteran, and we just support all veterans,” said Harold Feasel, of the American Legion Post 113 in Rotonda West.

Eric Hall, 24, was a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps and served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was badly injured by an explosive in Fallujah, had to go through 17 to 20 surgeries, and was medically retired from the Marine Corps. In January, he moved to Florida from his native Indiana to start fresh, his family said. He was staying with his aunt in Deep Creek when he went missing on February 3, apparently in the midst of a flashback to Iraq. A local veteran found his body in Harbour Heights Sunday.

Eric’s funeral will be held in Indiana and his family hopes to bury his ashes at Arlington National Cemetery. The memorial service Thursday at Faith Lutheran Church was meant to provide local veterans, many of whom participated in the search for Eric during the five weeks he was missing, with an opportunity to honor him. Many of those present expressed feeling kinship with Eric.

“Vietnam vets experienced much. Desert Storm vets are experiencing much of the same,” said Don Pedriali of the Vietnam Brotherhood, who fought as a Marine. He told the churchful of people he believed Eric was welcomed into heaven by the 58,044 who died in Vietnam, as well as by every veteran before and since. He solemnly saluted the photograph at the front of the church, which depicted Eric looking serious in his uniform.

Eric’s relatives, including parents, Becky and Kevin Hall, and brother, Justin Hall, sat in the front row. Justin, 27, wore his Navy uniform. As the family processed out of the church after the service, Kevin stopped in front of the photograph and touched it, crying. Then he and Becky walked outside together.

In the parking lot, Julie Seargent of Port Charlotte and Michelle Roberts of North Port stood beside their motorcycles. Seargent used a bungee cord to attach a large American flag to the back of hers. The two attended the service to pay their respects.

“We’re all one family,” Roberts said. “It’s all one country we’re fighting for.”

Roberts was in the Army and would have participated in Desert Storm had she not suffered an injury during training. She expressed concern about the mental health treatment available for returning war veterans, saying it is a repeat of how Vietnam War veterans were treated a generation earlier. Eric had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and his family has urged for treatment for veterans.

“They treat them for the physical injuries, but the mental injuries, they look past,” Roberts said. “They’re not being taken care of at all …
It’s hard to come back here after a year over there.”

Pedriali said all Americans need to support returning veterans.

“It’s not about what veterans can do, but what Americans can do,” he said.

Roberts expressed a similar sentiment.

“Whether you’re for or against the war, it’s these young guys doing their job, and we need to take care of them,” she said.

28 March 2008:

Medical examiner rules Eric Hall’s death ‘undetermined’

The Charlotte County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office received a final report Thursday from the Medical Examiner’s Office listing the cause of death of former Jeffersonville Marine Eric W. Hall as “undetermined.”

The 24-year-old Hall was first reported missing February 3 from his aunt’s Deep Creek, Fla., home, and a massive search was conduced for five weeks. Hall’s badly decomposed body was found inside a culvert March 9, not far from where his motorcycle was found on a road in the Deep Creek-Harbour Heights area.

Detectives said the Hall family has been notified.

Hall was a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps and served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was badly injured by an explosive in Fallujah, had to go through 17 to 20 surgeries and was medically retired from the Marine Corps.

In January, he moved to Florida from Southern Indiana to start fresh, his family said. He was staying with his aunt in Deep Creek when he went missing, apparently in the midst of a flashback to Iraq. A local veteran found his body in Harbour Heights March 9.

Hall had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and his family has urged for treatment for veterans.

31 March 2008:

PORT CHARLOTTE, Florida — A week after Eric W. Hall disappeared into the woods of Southwest Florida, his mother stood in a parking lot overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. She had asked for volunteers. Would they come?

Becky Hall’s son had experienced a flashback, fleeing a relative’s home after sensing that Iraqi insurgents had surrounded him. He was 24, a former Marine corporal from Indiana who had been medically discharged after a bomb ripped through his leg. Here, among the retirees and strip malls, he was a stranger.

And yet his absence spurred a community to action. More than 50 people stepped forward that first day in February. Others came later, young and old, contributing four-wheelers, pickup trucks, boats, horses, search-and-rescue dogs, and even a small plane.

They searched day in, day out for weeks because Mr. Hall’s story broke their hearts and, many said, because his case inspired them to look past arguments over whether the war was right or wrong. It was a mission, not a debate: A marine was missing and had to be found.

“He has these issues as a result of what we asked him to do,” said Kathryn Preston, 52, a botanist who spent time in the Army as a young woman and used her pontoon boat for the search. “It felt like we were responsible for him. People in the United States. All of us.”

Here in Southwest Florida, the Iraq war is no stranger. Tampa has both the headquarters for Central Command, responsible for Iraq and Afghanistan, and one of four hospitals that care for the nation’s most severely wounded soldiers. Since 2003, at least 34 families from Clearwater to Fort Myers have endured the chest-crushing pain of a knock on the door that leads to a funeral.

Mr. Hall’s story, to many, sounded familiar. And in the end, it connected military families from coast to coast. He was among the thousands who had been deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq more than once. When he came home in 2005 after being wounded by a bomb that killed his close friend, he was forced to endure repeated surgery, post-traumatic stress and the loss of his career in the Marine Corps.

At his parents’ home in Indiana one day, he told his mother that he no longer fit in.

“Everyone is moving on,” he said. “Look at me. I’m not.”

Among marines and soldiers recently returned from Iraq — including men like Billy Huether who helped search for him — Mr. Hall’s combat horrors rang true. His failure to readjust, in a society that often seems more concerned with Britney than bombs, also made him a brother to Vietnam veterans here, like Charlie Shaughnessy, who camped out for several nights looking for Mr. Hall.

And in the struggle of Mr. Hall’s loving Midwestern family, many here and outside of Florida came to recognize a sad and unavoidable truth: that wars do not always end when the warriors come home. On the home front, they last a lifetime.

Mr. Huether, an outgoing father of two, worked as an Army recruiter from 1998 to 2003 in and around the town where Mr. Hall disappeared. He had served for more than a decade when he received the assignment, and the task became easier after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when scores of Americans signed up to serve their country in the fight against terrorism.

Even then, he said, the war in Iraq seemed inevitable and area residents seemed ready for its consequences.

“The American flags went up, the yellow ribbons came out,” he said. “Instead of Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ flags outside their windows, they were flying the American flags.”

One in five of Port Charlotte’s 46,000 mostly middle-class residents is a veteran, above the national average of 12.7 percent, according to the 2000 Census. In neighboring Punta Gorda, a smaller community, the share of veterans is even higher, 29 percent.

But it didn’t take long for support of the Iraq war to fade. When Mr. Huether, 40, came home from a yearlong deployment to South Korea in the spring of 2004, he noticed that the community had become more skeptical, describing Iraqis as squanderers of freedom or outright killers. Even members of his family began to question whether the war could be won.

The change could be seen in the neighborhoods, where tracts of one-story homes opened onto screened-in patios. Some of the American flags had come down. A few weeks after he returned, he noticed signs on light poles and on plywood at construction sites, which appeared to be memorials for someone named Michael.

“Who’s Michael?” he asked his wife.

She had tried to keep it from him. Specialist Michael Woodliff had been one of Mr. Huether’s recruits. Only 22 and engaged to be married, he was killed in Baghdad in April 2004 by a bomb that ripped through his Humvee.

Mr. Huether immediately felt responsible.

“Emotionally, it was devastating,” Mr. Huether said. “He wasn’t just a number. He was a friend and fellow noncommissioned officer. Granted, he died doing what he loved. But I was the one that led him to it.”

The guilt, he said, had not gone away. In fact when he first heard that a local Iraq veteran was missing, he feared a replay of his experience with Specialist Woodliff.

“I was hoping I couldn’t put his name with a face,” he said. “I was just hoping — not again.”

Mr. Huether also knew he could not sit back and watch. Since retiring in August 2006 as a sergeant first class with 20 years of service, he has worked in the veterans’ service office for Charlotte County. He said it was his job and his sense of duty that prompted him to chase leads and scour the area’s waterways for a missing marine.

But he could only handle the water.

Searching the landscape of Florida, with its palm trees and sand, under hot sunny skies, felt too much like a step back in time and place to Iraq, where he served from January 2005 to February 2006. His children are now 16 and 19. He has a wife he loves and a job where he knows he can do some good for veterans. He just could not put his home life at risk.

“It wasn’t a matter of abandonment,” Mr. Huether said. “I was afraid of winding up in the same situation.”

Charlie Shaughnessy; Thomas McCarthy, known as Wolf; Jerry Lutz, known as Animal; and Bob Constabile were strangers before Eric Hall disappeared. Each had been a marine. Each had fought in Vietnam and struggled with the consequences.

Animal and Wolf, who still prefer their Vietnam nicknames, struggled with homelessness. Mr. Shaughnessy spent four years living without electricity in the woods of upstate New York before rejoining society. And even then, he said, he overcame the experience only with intense therapy.

“The military has an effect on your life forever,” Mr. Shaughnessy said between cigarettes in his living room this month. “Forever.”

By the time these men reached Florida, they were busy trying to move on. Like so many here, they had come to retire, to check out — and Iraq in particular was not a war they identified with.

The military had changed, becoming an all-volunteer force in 1974. The number of troops dying in Iraq has never reached the heights of Vietnam. And as they watched Iraq war veterans coming home to parades and public sympathy, many older veterans felt no need to link arms with younger colleagues. They watched Iraq like most Americans — as spectators.

But as the conflict dragged on, it became more familiar. When an increasing number of soldiers began coming home with post-traumatic stress, veterans like Mr. Shaughnessy and Mr. Constabile started to pay closer attention.

Mr. Hall’s story capped their gradual awakening. He brought them together, they said, and inspired them to get involved.

“This is the first time I’ve had anything to do with veterans’ anything,” said Mr. Constabile, a retired painter from Kenosha, Wis., who moved to Florida seven years ago. “Now I want to know more.”

During the search, he discovered that one of his grandsons had enlisted in the Army. Iraq had come a little closer. Mr. Hall’s story and the search became a lesson he passed on.

“I want my grandkids to know life isn’t all fun and games,” he said.

Wolf and Mr. Shaughnessy in particular developed a tight and unexpected friendship. Comparing their experiences of war and its aftermath and joking about their ages (59 and 60, respectively), they often searched together in Wolf’s silver Dodge pickup or on four-wheelers.

When a tip came in about a young man with a limp, who sat on a bench next to an old woman, smelling as if he had not showered, they both “dressed homeless,” as they put it — donning old clothes and sleeping in the homeless camps that dot the undeveloped land here behind cookie-cutter homes and fast-food restaurants.

They tried to stay positive even after Mr. Hall didn’t turn up in the camps — or anywhere else. Four weeks into the search, he still hadn’t materialized.

Mr. Shaughnessy — a squat, wide-chested, quiet soul with a Purple Heart hanging in his living room — kept worrying that they had missed something. He wondered, Why hadn’t Eric used his A.T.M. card? Where could he have gone without his motorcycle?

With his new wife at home, Mr. Shaughnessy returned several times to the field by Sulstone Road near where the police found Mr. Hall’s blue Yamaha R1 racing bike on Feb. 3, the day he disappeared. It was an area of palm trees, low brush and sandy trails not unlike the Euphrates River valley that Mr. Hall got to know during his time in Falluja — the kind of place Billy Huether sought to avoid.

On the night of March 6, Mr. Shaughnessy noticed something new — a scent coming from a metal drainage pipe three feet in diameter. The next morning, he crawled in, going 25 yards before the darkness and dirt forced him to squeeze back out.

A day later, he resubmerged with a combat knife and a flashlight, pushing forward on his belly for 60 long yards. He blocked out the smell, the mud, the maggots too, and desperately hoped to discover only a dead animal.

But once he reached the source, he saw what he feared — a skull and human jaw.

“I didn’t say anything,” he said, recounting what happened during an interview near the pipe. “I didn’t want them to panic.”

When he emerged, Mrs. Hall was there.

She asked, Is it Eric?

They locked eyes. Deep down, they already knew.

When Eric Hall’s parents talk about him before Iraq, two elements stand out: his tenaciousness and his love of the Marine Corps.

He was the skinny 12-year-old who played catcher on baseball teams with teenagers because he could always hold onto the ball when a runner slammed into home. And in the Marines, his family said he found his niche — a society where everyone was equal, without ranks on their combat uniforms.

A tour in Afghanistan from March to September 2004 introduced Mr. Hall to war. He went to Iraq next and on June 14, 2005, during a foot patrol in Anbar Province, an improvised explosive device blew up a few feet from him, changing his life forever. His parents described a brutal recovery at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., with as many as 20 operations. And when he returned home to Jeffersonville, Ind., a few months later, it was clear that his mind was wounded too.

“He didn’t really sleep,” said his mother, Becky Hall. “He woke up screaming. He kept a pistol under his pillow because he was afraid.”

After being “medically retired” in June 2006, he found himself at home without a job and with friends who were especially interested in his pain medication. He came to Florida to live with a relative, seeking a fresh start. He disappeared only a few weeks after he arrived.

Mrs. Hall, 52, a physical therapist’s assistant, immediately moved into her sister’s home to manage the search.

The community response at times overwhelmed her with emotion.

Mrs. Hall found particular comfort in the Vietnam veterans, with their stories of struggle, of war and of its aftermath. Together, they even managed to laugh, in mud on four-wheelers or when she started ad-libbing her shouts to her son while searching, scolding him as if he were still a toddler.

“We were just so exhausted, it was ‘Come out, come out wherever you are,’ ” she said. “I just wanted to wring his little neck.”

Her toughness impressed the veterans. They called her “our commander.” She in turn cherished their dedication, which she suspected brought costs especially for Mr. Shaughnessy, who later said he was suffering again with nightmares of war.

Mr. Hall’s parents said they wished their son could have learned from such men. “If he got to talk to people like these, who experienced boots on the ground, it would have been a totally different story,” said his father, Kevin Hall.

Mr. Hall, 51, a maintenance supervisor at a local courthouse, stayed home during the search in case Eric Hall appeared. He arrived in Florida only after his son’s body had been identified. And with him came waves of grief.

On a hot morning in mid-March, he and his son Justin, 27, who flew from his Navy post in Virginia, visited for the first time the site where Eric Hall had died. They were accompanied by Mrs. Hall, Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Shaughnessy, who explained what he and the authorities thought had happened.

“I think Eric came here to collect his thoughts and smoked a cigarette, and that started a fire,” Mr. Shaughnessy said. “He climbed into the pipe for cover.”

Eric Hall’s father said later that his mind landed on the consequences of so much time underground. “After five, six weeks,” he said, “his body was pretty decomposed.”

He began to cry. “He loved that marine uniform. The first thought that hit me” — his shoulders shook with tears — “was that he wouldn’t be able to wear it.”

A few hundred yards away, Mrs. Hall and Wolf were hugging. He and Mr. Shaughnessy had volunteered to bring Eric Hall’s ashes to Indiana for the funeral.

“We’re coming up,” Wolf said.

Mrs. Hall looked up at him. “Oh, God love you,” she said.

In her hand, she held a flier with her son’s picture, smiling with his dog. She gently rubbed her fingers over the photograph.

“He’s with God and the other guys in the platoon,” she said. “You’re O.K. now Eric. It didn’t have to be so hard.”

Then, putting on her large, dark sunglasses, she walked over to her last living son, comforting him as he crumpled in tears on the trunk of a sedan.

June 24, 2008:

The ashes of Jeffersonville, Indiana, native Eric Hall are to be buried Friday at Arlington National Cemetery, more than four months after the Marine veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder disappeared in Florida.

The body of Hall, 24, was found March 9, 2008, in a drainage pipe in Charlotte County, Florida, near where his motorcycle had been found with its motor still running after he fled from a relative’s house saying it was surrounded by the enemy.

“He was an American hero and should be with American heroes,” Hall’s mother, Becky Hall of Jeffersonville, said in an interview today.

Hall was severely wounded in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2005 by a roadside bomb that broke his hip and leg and damaged a nerve in his right arm. The explosion also killed a friend in his unit.

“For three years after he was out of the hospital we took care of him,” said Kevin Hall, his father. He said his son was coping with his physical injuries but couldn’t overcome the stress that sometimes caused hallucinations, often left him anxious and prevented him from finding a job.

Eric had gone to Florida—where he had relatives — about two weeks before his disappearance in an attempt to overcome his disabilities, Kevin Hall said.

His body was found after extensive searches by police, veterans and others for more than five weeks.

While in Washington, D.C., Becky Hall said, she and her husband will meet with a staff member of United States Representative Connie Mack, D-Fla., to discuss their experiences with their son. Mack has an interest in veterans’ affairs.

Becky Hall said she also will discuss the possibility of testifying to a congressional committee about Eric and what can be done to provide more effective help for veterans suffering from the constant pain he experienced.

But she said she’s not ready to go before a committee yet. “It’s only been four months” since losing her son, she said.

Until the discovery of his remains, Becky Hall had stayed in Florida helping organize the searches, hoping he might still be alive.

She said she plans to contact members of Indiana’s congressional delegation soon to discuss Eric’s experiences and share ideas for more effectively help for veterans in such circumstances.

“It’s a way to keep his name alive,” Kevin Hall said.

June 25, 2008:

The Jeffersonville, Indiana, Marine found dead in a Florida culvert in March will be laid to rest this Friday.  The discovery of Eric Hall's body came after a month-long search.

Hall had been seriously wounded in Iraq and suffered from post traumatic stress disorder.  His family is now working to prevent this tragedy from repeating itself.

After combat in Afghanistan in 2004, serious injuries from a bomb in Iraq in 2005, and three years of chronic pain and mental anguish, Hall will finally be able to rest in peace and with honor.  Hall's cremated remains will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

An improvised explosive device in Fallujah nearly blew off Corporal Hall's leg.  It killed a close friend, ended Hall's marine career, and started the battle between the confusion from pain medications and constant physical pain.  Some twenty surgeries treated his physical injuries, but Hall's family says the military is negligent in recognizing and treating post-traumatic stress disorder.

It was in that state that Hall disappeared on super bowl Sunday.  His family theorizes that he stopped his motorcycle to smoke a cigarette, it sparked a brush fire and when hall sought shelter in a metal drainage pipe, he succumbed to the smoke.  A Vietnam veteran found his badly decomposed remains.

When Hall was being treated at Bethesda Naval Hospital, his mother would take him to Washington D.C. on short trips.  She says he was especially impressed with Arlington National Cemetery where he pointed out the precision of the changing of the guard.

NOTE: Corporal Hall was laid to rest with military honors in Arlington National Cemetery on 27 June 2008 among other heroes of the war against terrorism.  Section 60, Grave 8175.


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