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Latest hell for ex-U.S. Marine: Chained to bed in Mexican jail

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Latest hell for ex-U.S. Marine: Chained to bed in Mexican jail

Athena
Sun Herald
By Tim Johnson — McClatchy Newspapers
December 6, 2012

MEXICO CITY — As a U.S. Marine, Jon Hammar endured nightmarish tension patrolling the war-ravaged streets of Iraq’s Fallujah. When he came home, the brutality of war still pinging around his brain, mental peace proved elusive.  Surfing provided the only respite.

“The only time Hammar is not losing his mind is when he’s on the water,” said a fellow Marine veteran, Ian McDonough.

Hammar and McDonough devised a plan: They’d buy a used motor home, load on the surfboards and drive from the Miami area to Costa Rica to find “someplace to be left alone, someplace far off the grid,” McDonough said.

They made it to only the Mexican border. Hammar is in a Matamoros prison, where he spends much of his time chained to a bed and facing death threats from gangsters. He’s off the grid, for sure, in walking distance of the U.S. border. But it’s more of a black hole than a place to heal a troubled soul.

The reason might seem ludicrous. Hammar took a six-decade-old shotgun into Mexico. The .410 bore Sears & Roebuck shotgun once belonged to his great-grandfather. The firearm had been handed down through the generations, and it had become almost a part of Hammar, suitable for shooting birds and rabbits.

But Mexican prosecutors who looked at the disassembled relic in the 1972 Winnebago motor home dismissed the U.S. registration papers Hammar had filled out. They charged him with a serious crime: possession of a weapon restricted for use to Mexico’s armed forces.

Hammar isn’t the only American accused of questionable gun-related charges at Mexico’s border. Last April, a truck driver who was carrying ammunition through Texas got lost near the border, dipped into Mexico to make a U-turn and was forced to spend more than six months in jail.

It’s been months since Hammar’s Aug. 13 arrest, and his former Marine comrades are livid and dumbfounded, impotent to help.

“It’s heartbreaking. This is a guy who I served with in numerous combat situations, and he was one of the best we had,” said veteran Marine Sgt. James Garcia.

Hammar, 27, joined the Marines and deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq before receiving an honorable discharge in 2007, serving another four years in inactive reserve. In Fallujah, one of the most dangerous cities in Iraq, Hammar’s Marine battalion was hit hard, with 13 killed in action and more than 100 wounded, Garcia said.

“There were days where it was like, dude, I may not make it out of here,” Garcia said. “If it wasn’t the IEDs, it was the car bombs or the suicide bombs.”

In Afghanistan, the Marine unit provided security for President Hamid Karzai, protected election polls and disrupted insurgent cells around Kabul.

Hammar did not have an easy re-entry to civilian life. After recurring bouts of depression, he voluntarily checked into The Pathway Home, a residential treatment center for veterans in California’s Napa Valley, in August 2011 for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. He graduated nine months later.

“A big portion of his PTSD is survivor’s guilt. It’s a loss of innocence,” said Olivia Hammar, his mother, a Miami-Dade County magazine publisher. “You’re still trying to process all your friends who didn’t come home.”

After leaving Pathway, Jon Hammar and Ian McDonough spent $1,400 on the used Winnebago, splashed out another $3,000 to outfit it and mapped a route to Costa Rica, hitting surf breaks in Cocoa Beach, Fla., and in Louisiana and Texas along the way to Mexico. Inside the rolling white beast were up to nine surfboards.

“We begged him not to go, specifically because we were worried about his safety in Mexico, but they were fearless Marines and were undaunted,” Olivia Hammar said in an email.

McDonough, a U.S. citizen who’s lived off and on for three years in Argentina, said he and his friend were wary of dangers as they approached the Los Indios border crossing, which links Brownsville, Texas, with Matamoros, Mexico.

“We had enough gas in the vehicle that we were going to make it to southern Mexico before nightfall,” McDonough said. “We weren’t going to stop.”

The issue of the shotgun came up near the border.

“I told him that we probably shouldn’t take the shotgun with us,” McDonough said. “And he said, ‘No, I’m going to get it cleared with customs at the gate.’ So I said, ‘That’s fine. As long as it’s legit.’ ”

The Customs and Border Protection agent said it was all right to take the shotgun, McDonough said, adding that the agent told them: “ ‘All you have to do is register it.’ So they gave us a piece of paper and said, ‘This is your registration. You’ve got to pay this much.’ They gave us the piece of paper to give to the Mexican authorities.”

As soon as the Winnebago lumbered over the bridge and they handed over the form to Mexican agents, trouble began. The two spent several days in custody, separated from each other. Mexican authorities eventually freed McDonough, perhaps because of his Argentine residency, and he walked back to Brownsville.

On Aug. 18, Mexican prosecutors leveled serious charges against Hammar. Curiously, it wasn’t the type of shotgun that broke Mexican law. It was the length of the barrel, which the formal citation said was shorter than 25 inches, although a discrepancy has emerged over how the barrel was measured.

“It’s a glorified BB gun,” Olivia Hammar said.

Indeed, Mexico’s criminal groups routinely wield AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles, high-powered .50-caliber sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and other potent weaponry. If Hammar had any intention of causing mayhem, using his great-grandfather’s proud firearm would have been like Daniel Boone and his muzzle-loading Tick-Licker fighting a modern U.S. Marine.

Back in April, the Dallas truck driver, Jabin Bogan, carrying 25,000 pounds of ammunition in his 18-wheeler, said he got lost in El Paso en route to a delivery in Phoenix. When he lurched to a stop at the Mexican border, asking to turn around, a Customs and Border Protection agent told him it was impossible. He was told to enter Mexico and make a U-turn. He had no passport and couldn’t speak Spanish.

The ammunition was openly displayed on nine pallets in the truck, most of it of a caliber unsuitable for the AK-47 and AR-15 rifles favored by Mexico’s cartels.

Mexican prosecutors charged him with crimes that could have brought more than 25 years in prison.

“My son was not trying to deliver no drugs or no guns to nobody,” Bogan’s mother, Aletha Smith, told an ABC-TV affiliate in Texas.

Through pressure from members of the U.S. Congress, Bogan was freed Nov. 23, and he returned to a tearful reunion in Dallas with his family.

While his ordeal was difficult, Hammar’s has been worse.

Once Hammar was sent to a state prison in Matamoros, mixed in with the general inmate population, late-night phone calls began to his parents in Palmetto Bay, Fla.

“They said, ‘I have your son. We need money.’ I said, ‘I’m going to call the (U.S.) consulate.’ They said, ‘The consulate can’t help you.’ Then they put him on the phone. He said, ‘Mom, you need to pay them,’ ” Olivia Hammar recalled.

Over subsequent calls, the extortionists offered a Western Union account number and demanded an initial payment of $1,800.

Frantic, the Hammars contacted U.S. diplomats, who helped get their son out of a general cellblock into solitary confinement. They didn’t pay the extortion. Nor did they speak to the news media until now.

“He was housed in a wing controlled by the drug cartel,” said Eddie Varon-Levy, a Mexican lawyer hired by the family.

Varon-Levy said that Hammar, if convicted, could receive a sentence of anywhere from three to 12 years in a federal prison.

Making matters worse is the nature of Hammar’s confinement, a matter that’s drawn the attention of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Hammars’ local representative.

“His family has described a very disturbing situation that includes their son being chained to a bed in a very small cell and receiving calls from fellow inmates threatening his life if they did not send them money,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “The family also says that the jail where their son is being held is controlled by the dreaded and brutal Zetas drug cartel. The family wants their son back home, and I will do my best to help them."

For all the toughness instilled by the Marine Corps, friends say Hammar is a gentle soul.

“Hammar doesn’t take meds. Hammar doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink. Hammar doesn’t do any of that. He surfs,” McDonough said. “If you meet Hammar, you have to like him. He’s always there for you. If you need something, he’ll literally give you everything.”

So far, Hammar’s parents have gotten little help from U.S. diplomats.

“They take a real hands-off approach. Unless your life is at threat, they aren’t going to do anything,” Olivia Hammar said.

For Garcia and dozens of other Marines who’ve learned of Hammar’s plight, it’s hardly conceivable not to take action.

“He doesn’t deserve this,” Garcia said. “We never leave a brother behind. We never leave a Marine behind. We have to do something.”

Read more here: http://www.sunherald.com/2012/12/06/4343772/latest-hell-for-ex-us-marine-chained.html#storylink=cpy
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Re: Latest hell for ex-U.S. Marine: Chained to bed in Mexican jail

303
And where is the savior and leader of this country Obama? Oh right he hates the military and doesn't actually care about the citizens of his country.
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Re: Latest hell for ex-U.S. Marine: Chained to bed in Mexican jail

†.©ĤİVǾ.†
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This post was updated on .
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Re: Latest hell for ex-U.S. Marine: Chained to bed in Mexican jail

El Faro
In reply to this post by 303
This is a sad and unfortunate story, my heart goes out to Hammer and his family.  Hammer got bad advice.  The only way legally to import firearms and/or ammunition into Mexico is to secure a permit in advance from the Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C. or from a Mexican Consulate.

The rules are clear.   (source: US CONSULATE)

GUNS ARE ILLEGAL IN MEXICO
 
 
Don’t bring firearms or ammunition across the border into Mexico.

Don’t carry a knife, even a small pocketknife, on your person in Mexico.

You may become one of dozens of U.S. Citizens who are arrested each month for unintentionally violating Mexico’s strict weapons laws.

If you are caught with firearms or ammunition in Mexico...

You will go to jail and your vehicle will be seized;
You will be separated from your family, friends, and your job, and likely suffer substantial financial hardship;
You will pay court costs and other fees ranging into the tens of thousands of dollars defending yourself;
You may get up to a 30-year sentence in a Mexican prison if found guilty.
If you carry a knife on your person in Mexico, even a pocketknife . . .

You may be arrested and charged with possession of a deadly weapon;
You may spend weeks in jail waiting for trial, and tens of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees, court costs, and fines;
If convicted, you may be sentenced to up to five years in a Mexican prison.
Claiming not to know about the law will not get you leniency from a police officer or the judicial system. Leave your firearms, ammunition, and knives at home. Don’t bring them into Mexico.

http://tijuana.usconsulate.gov/tijuana/warning.html
http://www.mexinsider.com/guns-in-mexico.html
http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_970.html
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Re: Latest hell for ex-U.S. Marine: Chained to bed in Mexican jail

EliteSquad2
In reply to this post by Athena
I know I'm being biased, because I'm not from Mexico, much less the southern United States, but why does Mexico choose to prosecute a man who was not going to give this gun to a cartel?  Why don't they focus on all the cartel soldiers they catch, instead of letting them go (from what I hear)?  Again, I know I'm biased, but I'm from the midwest, so I don't hear about any Mexican topic unless it's on here.
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Re: Latest hell for ex-U.S. Marine: Chained to bed in Mexican jail

Mitch Oriso
In reply to this post by Athena
Thanks for the post. I see there are many inconsistencies.

Here's one for example.

his mother, a Miami-Dade County magazine publisher

“My son was not trying to deliver no drugs or no guns to nobody,” Bogan’s mother, Aletha Smith, told an ABC-TV affiliate in Texas.


A magazine publisher using double negatives.

Saludos
Micho





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Re: Latest hell for ex-U.S. Marine: Chained to bed in Mexican jail

jlopez
In reply to this post by EliteSquad2
Elite: To answer your question, why prosecute this guy, it's because he's an easy target. He's alone, he's poor, he cannot even speak the language, and is totally clueless. The Mexican (in)justice system is the triumph of form over substance, a bureaucratic morass.
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Re: Latest hell for ex-U.S. Marine: Chained to bed in Mexican jail

JesusTheMoose
In reply to this post by Athena
Sad. He should have known better than to take any firearm to Mexico. Sorry, but PTSD doesn't excuse lack of common sense. Marines live by strict rules and he should have known better especially if he was a Camp Pendleton marine.
The only object of liberty is life. -- G. K. Chesterton

Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. -- Benjamin Franklin
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Re: Latest hell for ex-U.S. Marine: Chained to bed in Mexican jail

jackal
In reply to this post by Athena
Nice post Athena.  Very sad story.  

Where the hell is the US Embassy, Secretary of State???   It is a disgrace that the US govt is leaving this Marine hanging.   Obama should have brought up the subject directly to EPN during his visit to DC last week.

There was a post on BB 1-2 months ago about the mexican capos crying about their treatment in the US prison system.  WTF?  They receive a private cell with sink, toilet, bed, tv, 3 squares per day.  I say chain those capo MF'ers to the bed.  Have the crips or bloods call their capo buddies and extort money from them.

We should start a fund to hire CDG to go break him out of jail and return him to the US.
DD
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Re: Latest hell for ex-U.S. Marine: Chained to bed in Mexican jail

DD
In reply to this post by Mitch Oriso
@Mitch.  Re-read the story.  It says Hammer's mother was a magazine publisher.  


It goes on to say;  “My son was not trying to deliver no drugs or no guns to nobody,” Bogan’s mother, Aletha Smith,


Bogan was the truck driver recently freed after allegedly mistakenly taking his truck load of ammunition into Mx.

DD
Words are powerful weapons, be careful how you use them.
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Re: Latest hell for ex-U.S. Marine: Chained to bed in Mexican jail

Valhalla
In reply to this post by EliteSquad2
Elite, I asked the same question when they throw me in jail, well, in my case answer was 30,000 pesos in 24 hrs to the police and judge. Not to mention 200,000 to my opponent in court.

As for the rest of the answer, jlopez summoned it perfectly.

My short jail visit wisened me up nicely, I rather have my opponent killed next time then go though Mexican "justice" system again, it's also cheaper.
Actually I won't but it would be cheaper if you could live with your self after that.

When I had my exchange of words with Chivo couple of days ago, he ignored my important point of things that must be done here (that is his only debate strategy, plus whining), total reform of the justice system, it's a perfect injustice system made by the powerful for the powerful.

All Wars Are Bankster Wars.
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Re: Latest hell for ex-U.S. Marine: Chained to bed in Mexican jail

EL GUAPO
In reply to this post by DD
Seeing more than a lot of inconsistencies in the story....

First and foremost, I've never heard of US Customs giving permission to take a hunting rifle or shotgun into Mexico. You register them on the Mexican side.

I also find it strange that Bogan, who was caught with 268,000 rounds of NATO grade ammo didn't have any problems during his 7 months in Villa Aldama, other than having to sleep on the floor....
Contributing journalist to SiriusXM Road Dog Channel #106 and the award winning "The Lockridge Report", Member of TWNA, owner of Mexico Trucker Online,
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Re: Latest hell for ex-U.S. Marine: Chained to bed in Mexican jail

Mitch Oriso
In reply to this post by DD
Thanks for the correction DD,

I find the level of discourse here on BB very instructive.
BUT, some of the posts here are extensive. I failed to notice that there are two different mothers/sons here.  

Saludos
Micho  

     



 
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Re: Latest hell for ex-U.S. Marine: Chained to bed in Mexican jail

La Pera
In reply to this post by Mitch Oriso
Mrs. Hammar is the magazine publisher. Bogan is the truck driver's mother.
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Re: Latest hell for ex-U.S. Marine: Chained to bed in Mexican jail

EL GUAPO
In reply to this post by Athena
After a weekend of reading all of the BS comments posted on this incident, I was preparing to sit down and knock something out, but then the Jenni Rivera story broke and I got involved in that. My involvement, such as it was, was trying to keep my server from crashing as it was getting more than 45 hits per second.

But I digress...

A good friend of mine in Maztlan, Richard Grabman, also got fed up and wrote this excellent response to the article. Richard is an author, editor for Editorial Maztlan and Mexico historian and a helluva nice guy.

The article below pretty much lays it out as it is.

The "Latest Hell"!




This is not a post I wanted to write.  I’m afraid I will piss people off who I don’t mean to piss off, but I don’t see any other way to get across what is wrong with U.S. media coverage of Mexico in general without looking at specifics.

Under the alarming headline “Latest hell for ex-U.S. Marine: Chained to bed in Mexican jail” McClatchy Newspaper is needlessly playing to xenophobia and anti-Mexican prejudices in one of the more reprehensible and irresponsible pieces I’ve seen published in an “mainstream” publication in a very long time.

Tim Johnson is by no means a bad reporter.  On the contrary he’s a very good reporter, and I am happy that McClatchy recognizes the importance of maintaining a full-time correspondent here.  Obviously, reporters don’t write the headlines (for one thing, my friends who served in The Corps tell me the only “ex-Marine” was Lee Harvey Oswald… all others are “former Marines”)  but the story itself is, shall we say, badly edited.

Basically, Jon Hammar is sitting in prison in Matamoros for importing illegal firearms.  Simple enough… besides the caution in every website, tour book, travel guide, etc. about Mexico, at every border crossing you will see posted:

Johnson — or perhaps his editors — suggests the Mexican law is absurd, and perhaps it is:

The reason might seem ludicrous. Hammar took a six-decade-old shotgun into Mexico. The .410 bore Sears & Roebuck shotgun once belonged to his great-grandfather. The firearm had been handed down through the generations, and it had become almost a part of Hammar, suitable for shooting birds and rabbits.

But Mexican prosecutors who looked at the disassembled relic in the 1972 Winnebago motor home dismissed the U.S. registration papers Hammar had filled out. They charged him with a serious crime: possession of a weapon restricted for use to Mexico’s armed forces.

Not that those warning signs make exceptions for 60 year old shotguns. Mexico looks at firearms smuggling the same way the United States looks at smuggling in heroin. One can obtain a prescription for narcotics in Mexico, but that Mexican prescription doesn’t mean squat to the Customs and Border Patrol. Nor would “U.S. registration papers” carry any weight with Aduana. According to Johnson,Hammar and his traveling buddy, Ian McDonough, “cleared” the shotgun with U.S. Customs (whatever that means).

The Customs and Border Protection agent said it was all right to take the shotgun, McDonough said, adding that the agent told them: “ ‘All you have to do is register it.’ So they gave us a piece of paper and said, ‘This is your registration. You’ve got to pay this much.’ They gave us the piece of paper to give to the Mexican authorities.”

Besides being nonsensical on its face (U.S. Customs couldn’t “clear” a weapon… or anything else… for import into another country. And while I concede it was possible a USCPB (Customs and Border Patrol) officer gave the duo unclear information, or that the McDonough and Hammar misunderstood the officer, I’m dubious of this story, especially given Tim Johnson’s willingness to accept another “American held unjustly for smuggling firearms into Mexico” story that he just accepts on the word of the accused smuggler.

Last April, a truck driver who was carrying ammunition through Texas got lost near the border, dipped into Mexico to make a U-turn and was forced to spend more than six months in jail.

As Porter Corn (Mexico Trucker) wrote of that “lost trucker” Jabin Bogan:

Bogan claims he was paying attention to his GPS, watching the road when a four wheeler on his left side forced him into Mexico with no way to turn around. He also maintained that a US Customs agent at the “port of entry” told him to cross into Mexico and turn around. The latter was disputed early on by a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection in El Paso who said agents at the Bridge of the America’s had no contact with Bogan or any “lost trucker” on that day and would have assisted them in turning around, as they have with others in the past. His former excuse about the GPS malfunctioning was debunked personally by myself in September when I made a trip to El Paso and retraced Bogans route that day using two separate GPS units. Bogan, and his US attorney, Carlos Spector continue to claim his innocence of the charges he was convicted of. Possession of Ammunition, even though the 268,000 rounds of NATO ammo grade ammunition was in the trailer that Bogan was pulling when he entered Mexico, according to Bogan and Spector, apparently Bogan was not in “possession” of the load. Strange legal theory if you ask me.

As it was, Mr. Bogin — like Jon Hammar — was initially charged with cooperated with having weapons (in this case, ammunition… a whopping 268,000 rounds) reserved for the military, something that on conviction would warrant a six to thirty year stretch in prison. But… Bogin cooperated with authorities, and charges were reduced to mere possession of ammunition. He was released from custody and deported to the United States in late November.

Bogin’s supporters included the usual mix of xenophobes and right-wing nuts — who were falling all over themselves to “prove” they weren’t racists by supporting an African-American against the “corrupt” Mexicans. But within his own peer group — the truckers themselves — support was muted (excepting xenophobic and gun-nutty truckers) for a couple of reasons. First, and most obvious, was that Bogin by all accounts isn’t a very smart guy, he worked for a rather marginal company of somewhat dubious reputation, and the amount and type of ammunition he was carrying was obviously not something easily overlooked, or written off as an honest mistake. Soon after Bogin’s initial arrest, the “conservative” truckers’ website Truckers’ Voice posted a review of the incident under the title “Don’t Free Jabin Bogan!“… the argument being that had a Mexican driver been carrying an unauthorized load into the United States, U.S. truckers would be demanding his head on a platter… and that the guy was an embarrassment to truckers everywhere.

Not that Tim Johnson should have included all the details of the trucker who “lost near the border, dipped into Mexico ” and wound up (quite legally and quite correctly) in the slammer, but the connection to Jon Hammar — from a wealthy Florida family (his mother is the publisher and director of Florida Architecture Magazine (“Florida’s Luxury Building Design Magazine”) and a director of two other family-held Florida corporations, one being his father’s software consulting firm. Mentioned in Florida news reports on Jon Hammar’s not-so-excellent adventure, the family was able to “reach out” to both of their state’s U.S. Senators and to House Memeber Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, who serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee is the Hammar’s representative and — while most of us don’t have this kind of access to Senators and Congressional Representatives — it is normal to “reach out” to these kinds of public figures when family members are incarcerated in foreign countries. What is not normal is that Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen reprints Tim Johnson’s story… IN FULL… on her own website. I don’t believe Johnson wrote the story for the benefit of the conservative Florida Republican, but the article is slanted to appeal to reactionary political thinking.

Tim Johnson opens his piece on Jon Hammar like this:

As a U.S. Marine, Jon Hammar endured nightmarish tension patrolling the war-ravaged streets of Iraq’s Fallujah. When he came home, the brutality of war still pinging around his brain, mental peace proved elusive.

He builds a portrait of a very troubled soul:

Hammar, 27, joined the Marines and deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq before receiving an honorable discharge in 2007, serving another four years in inactive reserve. In Fallujah, one of the most dangerous cities in Iraq, Hammar’s Marine battalion was hit hard, with 13 killed in action and more than 100 wounded, Garcia said.

“There were days where it was like, dude, I may not make it out of here,” Garcia said. “If it wasn’t the IEDs, it was the car bombs or the suicide bombs.”

In Afghanistan, the Marine unit provided security for President Hamid Karzai, protected election polls and disrupted insurgent cells around Kabul.

Hammar did not have an easy re-entry to civilian life. After recurring bouts of depression, he voluntarily checked into The Pathway Home, a residential treatment center for veterans in California’s Napa Valley, in August 2011 for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. He graduated nine months later.

“A big portion of his PTSD is survivor’s guilt. It’s a loss of innocence,” said Olivia Hammar, his mother, a Miami-Dade County magazine publisher. “You’re still trying to process all your friends who didn’t come home.”

The “Garcia” mentioned is another former Marine, who is given the last word in the article:

“He doesn’t deserve this,” Garcia said. “We never leave a brother behind. We never leave a Marine behind. We have to do something.”

This is what is highly objectionable in Johnson’s story. The story conveys the  sense that the Mexican laws are unimportant, and — even if they are enforced — special rights should be granted to U.S. veterans, and that Mexico would, of course, acquiesce to giving special consideration to people the U.S. considers more worthy than others.  (Don’t believe me… read the comments on the story).

Sorry, Tim.  I know you didn’t arrive in Mexico until 2009, but I well remember President Fox making a live television broadcast from his hospital room where he was recovering from major surgery in early 2003 to assure the nation that their United Nations Ambassador (at the time Mexico was on the Security Council) would not vote to approve a U.S. invasion and secondly, that Mexico would not, and could not, participate in any such invasion. I also remember the polling results in the Mexican press, showing over 90 percent of the populace opposed the war (being, like Iraq, a country with a crappy army and a lot of oil might have had something to do with it). This was not a popular war with the Mexicans, and I doubt you’ll find much sympathy here based on Mr. Hammar’s service in a conflict the Mexican media called (quite correctly) The War AGAINST Iraq and Afghanistan.

Not that it’s held against those who serve in those unjust wars.  The stressed out veterans of earlier, wildly unpopular U.S. military activities who sought a separate (Mexican) peace are familiar enough to make an appearance as sympathetic figures in Paco Ignacio Taibo II’s 1987 La vida misma. Mexicans are not looking to “punish” veterans of the latest U.S. military adventure, and would likely be welcoming and understanding of victims like Mr. Hammar under other circumstances. Which is not to say that — as with any nation —  a mentally ill individual who by all accounts was unable to care for himself would be permitted to remain in the country. And certainly providing such an individual with a firearm would seem extremely weird to Mexicans, even if — as Mr. Johnson claims (based only on Olivia Hammar’s understandably biased word) — that firearm was nothing more than a rabbit gun.

Johnson’s piece makes a good point that Mr. Hammar is likely being victimized in jail. And I do mean jail, not prison. As Johnson should know (having mentioned Jabin Bogan in passing), if Jon Hammar were being charged with the more serious crime of carrying firearms reserved for the military, he would be sent to a secure facility away from the border, as Bogan was within a week or so of first being charged. That “Zetas” seem to run the jail, and that Hammar has received threats is no surprise, and I would venture that — crappy as Mexican jails are — that “black hole” in which Hammar finds himself is as close to protective custody as a mentally ill, vulnerable prisoner awaiting trial is going to get.

There is a bright spot… Tim Johnson’s “Latest hell for ex-U.S. Marine: Chained to bed in Mexican jail“  brings home not so much the obvious messages that Mexico is a sovereign nation with its own laws that it will enforce, and that the cultural biases of the United States do not necessarily play well outside the country’s borders, but a reminder that incarceration is not conducive to the treatment of the the mentally ill. Alas, the information is lost in this inflammatory piece based on bias sources.

Seeped in cultural myopia, it naturally leads to the comments that seek to “blame Mexico” when … if there is blame to go around… should be put on a culture that all but worships firearms; that glorifies militarism; that takes at face value the biases of those “like us” and doesn’t bother with any possible conflicting information.
Athena wrote
Sun Herald
By Tim Johnson — McClatchy Newspapers
December 6, 2012

MEXICO CITY — As a U.S. Marine, Jon Hammar endured nightmarish tension patrolling the war-ravaged streets of Iraq’s Fallujah. When he came home, the brutality of war still pinging around his brain, mental peace proved elusive.  Surfing provided the only respite.

“The only time Hammar is not losing his mind is when he’s on the water,” said a fellow Marine veteran, Ian McDonough.

Hammar and McDonough devised a plan: They’d buy a used motor home, load on the surfboards and drive from the Miami area to Costa Rica to find “someplace to be left alone, someplace far off the grid,” McDonough said.

They made it to only the Mexican border. Hammar is in a Matamoros prison, where he spends much of his time chained to a bed and facing death threats from gangsters. He’s off the grid, for sure, in walking distance of the U.S. border. But it’s more of a black hole than a place to heal a troubled soul.

The reason might seem ludicrous. Hammar took a six-decade-old shotgun into Mexico. The .410 bore Sears & Roebuck shotgun once belonged to his great-grandfather. The firearm had been handed down through the generations, and it had become almost a part of Hammar, suitable for shooting birds and rabbits.

But Mexican prosecutors who looked at the disassembled relic in the 1972 Winnebago motor home dismissed the U.S. registration papers Hammar had filled out. They charged him with a serious crime: possession of a weapon restricted for use to Mexico’s armed forces.

Hammar isn’t the only American accused of questionable gun-related charges at Mexico’s border. Last April, a truck driver who was carrying ammunition through Texas got lost near the border, dipped into Mexico to make a U-turn and was forced to spend more than six months in jail.

It’s been months since Hammar’s Aug. 13 arrest, and his former Marine comrades are livid and dumbfounded, impotent to help.

“It’s heartbreaking. This is a guy who I served with in numerous combat situations, and he was one of the best we had,” said veteran Marine Sgt. James Garcia.

Hammar, 27, joined the Marines and deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq before receiving an honorable discharge in 2007, serving another four years in inactive reserve. In Fallujah, one of the most dangerous cities in Iraq, Hammar’s Marine battalion was hit hard, with 13 killed in action and more than 100 wounded, Garcia said.

“There were days where it was like, dude, I may not make it out of here,” Garcia said. “If it wasn’t the IEDs, it was the car bombs or the suicide bombs.”

In Afghanistan, the Marine unit provided security for President Hamid Karzai, protected election polls and disrupted insurgent cells around Kabul.

Hammar did not have an easy re-entry to civilian life. After recurring bouts of depression, he voluntarily checked into The Pathway Home, a residential treatment center for veterans in California’s Napa Valley, in August 2011 for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. He graduated nine months later.

“A big portion of his PTSD is survivor’s guilt. It’s a loss of innocence,” said Olivia Hammar, his mother, a Miami-Dade County magazine publisher. “You’re still trying to process all your friends who didn’t come home.”

After leaving Pathway, Jon Hammar and Ian McDonough spent $1,400 on the used Winnebago, splashed out another $3,000 to outfit it and mapped a route to Costa Rica, hitting surf breaks in Cocoa Beach, Fla., and in Louisiana and Texas along the way to Mexico. Inside the rolling white beast were up to nine surfboards.

“We begged him not to go, specifically because we were worried about his safety in Mexico, but they were fearless Marines and were undaunted,” Olivia Hammar said in an email.

McDonough, a U.S. citizen who’s lived off and on for three years in Argentina, said he and his friend were wary of dangers as they approached the Los Indios border crossing, which links Brownsville, Texas, with Matamoros, Mexico.

“We had enough gas in the vehicle that we were going to make it to southern Mexico before nightfall,” McDonough said. “We weren’t going to stop.”

The issue of the shotgun came up near the border.

“I told him that we probably shouldn’t take the shotgun with us,” McDonough said. “And he said, ‘No, I’m going to get it cleared with customs at the gate.’ So I said, ‘That’s fine. As long as it’s legit.’ ”

The Customs and Border Protection agent said it was all right to take the shotgun, McDonough said, adding that the agent told them: “ ‘All you have to do is register it.’ So they gave us a piece of paper and said, ‘This is your registration. You’ve got to pay this much.’ They gave us the piece of paper to give to the Mexican authorities.”

As soon as the Winnebago lumbered over the bridge and they handed over the form to Mexican agents, trouble began. The two spent several days in custody, separated from each other. Mexican authorities eventually freed McDonough, perhaps because of his Argentine residency, and he walked back to Brownsville.

On Aug. 18, Mexican prosecutors leveled serious charges against Hammar. Curiously, it wasn’t the type of shotgun that broke Mexican law. It was the length of the barrel, which the formal citation said was shorter than 25 inches, although a discrepancy has emerged over how the barrel was measured.

“It’s a glorified BB gun,” Olivia Hammar said.

Indeed, Mexico’s criminal groups routinely wield AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles, high-powered .50-caliber sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and other potent weaponry. If Hammar had any intention of causing mayhem, using his great-grandfather’s proud firearm would have been like Daniel Boone and his muzzle-loading Tick-Licker fighting a modern U.S. Marine.

Back in April, the Dallas truck driver, Jabin Bogan, carrying 25,000 pounds of ammunition in his 18-wheeler, said he got lost in El Paso en route to a delivery in Phoenix. When he lurched to a stop at the Mexican border, asking to turn around, a Customs and Border Protection agent told him it was impossible. He was told to enter Mexico and make a U-turn. He had no passport and couldn’t speak Spanish.

The ammunition was openly displayed on nine pallets in the truck, most of it of a caliber unsuitable for the AK-47 and AR-15 rifles favored by Mexico’s cartels.

Mexican prosecutors charged him with crimes that could have brought more than 25 years in prison.

“My son was not trying to deliver no drugs or no guns to nobody,” Bogan’s mother, Aletha Smith, told an ABC-TV affiliate in Texas.

Through pressure from members of the U.S. Congress, Bogan was freed Nov. 23, and he returned to a tearful reunion in Dallas with his family.

While his ordeal was difficult, Hammar’s has been worse.

Once Hammar was sent to a state prison in Matamoros, mixed in with the general inmate population, late-night phone calls began to his parents in Palmetto Bay, Fla.

“They said, ‘I have your son. We need money.’ I said, ‘I’m going to call the (U.S.) consulate.’ They said, ‘The consulate can’t help you.’ Then they put him on the phone. He said, ‘Mom, you need to pay them,’ ” Olivia Hammar recalled.

Over subsequent calls, the extortionists offered a Western Union account number and demanded an initial payment of $1,800.

Frantic, the Hammars contacted U.S. diplomats, who helped get their son out of a general cellblock into solitary confinement. They didn’t pay the extortion. Nor did they speak to the news media until now.

“He was housed in a wing controlled by the drug cartel,” said Eddie Varon-Levy, a Mexican lawyer hired by the family.

Varon-Levy said that Hammar, if convicted, could receive a sentence of anywhere from three to 12 years in a federal prison.

Making matters worse is the nature of Hammar’s confinement, a matter that’s drawn the attention of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Hammars’ local representative.

“His family has described a very disturbing situation that includes their son being chained to a bed in a very small cell and receiving calls from fellow inmates threatening his life if they did not send them money,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “The family also says that the jail where their son is being held is controlled by the dreaded and brutal Zetas drug cartel. The family wants their son back home, and I will do my best to help them."

For all the toughness instilled by the Marine Corps, friends say Hammar is a gentle soul.

“Hammar doesn’t take meds. Hammar doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink. Hammar doesn’t do any of that. He surfs,” McDonough said. “If you meet Hammar, you have to like him. He’s always there for you. If you need something, he’ll literally give you everything.”

So far, Hammar’s parents have gotten little help from U.S. diplomats.

“They take a real hands-off approach. Unless your life is at threat, they aren’t going to do anything,” Olivia Hammar said.

For Garcia and dozens of other Marines who’ve learned of Hammar’s plight, it’s hardly conceivable not to take action.

“He doesn’t deserve this,” Garcia said. “We never leave a brother behind. We never leave a Marine behind. We have to do something.”

Read more here: http://www.sunherald.com/2012/12/06/4343772/latest-hell-for-ex-us-marine-chained.html#storylink=cpy
Contributing journalist to SiriusXM Road Dog Channel #106 and the award winning "The Lockridge Report", Member of TWNA, owner of Mexico Trucker Online,
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Re: Latest hell for ex-U.S. Marine: Chained to bed in Mexican jail

El Faro
nice post.........
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Re: Latest hell for ex-U.S. Marine: Chained to bed in Mexican jail

BajaCheryl
In reply to this post by EL GUAPO
THANK YOU. I thought about writing something, but didn't.   My thoughts were too many and your friend nailed it.  

This guy broke the law, and living that close to the border?  He had to know and he took the risk.  
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Re: Latest hell for ex-U.S. Marine: Chained to bed in Mexican jail

carwreck
BajaCheryl wrote
 He had to know and he took the risk.
BajaCheryl the mind reader. Lets hope they give him a nice 30 year sentence. Place bets on how soon it takes for him to be stabbed to death.
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Re: Latest hell for ex-U.S. Marine: Chained to bed in Mexican jail

Baggy
In reply to this post by †.©ĤİVǾ.†
Yeah i think its sad that its even an issue, could be because his parents are loaded and he has political connects.Whats the "right thing" in your opinion Chivo? Lock him up in a mental institution in the United states for treatment or have they all been closed down because its CHEAPER to throw the crazies in with all the small time drug addicts and murderers because you don't need to pay doctors and the prison system is a great way for private investors (Usually current/Ex politicians and their families) to make money and filter it out of the government budget into their own pockets...................

@Guapo good post. Also i think he's a target for extortion inside cause he let it slip his parents are loaded.... just like his 410, But seriously 10gauge shotties are pissweak. the shells are no bigger than a childs finger, They can hold some serious size BB's but usually they are just for shootin rats,snakes and birds but not people unless you take the time to cover the buckshot in hotwax to make a solid piece ^^

People also seem to be missing the point of how badly the USG and many others treat returning veterans with mental conditions and disabilities, If the only time this guy was not in mental anguish is when he was on the water he shoulda been livin in a fuckin' house boat or in treatment. But treatment for a mental condition like PTSD or depression and guilt from killin unnarmed civvies is not MACHO mAN enough isit.
Patriotism is a propaganda tool used to make people blind to the lies of their government through unquestioning devotion.
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Re: Latest hell for ex-U.S. Marine: Chained to bed in Mexican jail

Chivis
Administrator
In reply to this post by Athena
Athena your post got just under 10k views on main board...good job
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