Save Sgt. Russel

SGT. JOHN M. RUSSELL was a 44-year-old communication specialist from Sherman, Texas who served 16 years in the U.S. Army.  Sgt. Russel was near the end of his third tour in Iraq when he allegedly gunned down five fellow service members at a Baghdad combat stress clinic.  Sgt. Russel was charged with murder.  He is no cold-blooded killer, but a soldier who broke under the stress of continuous combat missions. 

Sgt. Russel was himself the first of six victims of his bout with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, for which he was ordered into treatment, but not shipped home.  Sgt. Russel should NOT be executed or imprisoned for life for suffering a war wound. HE NEEDS YEARS OF LONG-TERM HOSPITAL COMMITMENT. Some soldiers lose their limbs, others their eyesight or hearing.  When soldiers lay it all on the line for their country, some lose their mental wellbeing.

"We've never, I don't believe, had a force that we've put through seven years of continuous combat like this, where such a large percentage of the force is going on these multiple deployments," said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army's vice chief of staff and point man on mental health issues.

"They broke him," Sgt. Russel's father, Wilburn Russell said, wiping away tears.  Before the shooting, Russell had e-mailed his wife to tell her "his life was over," his father said.

The undersigned demand that murder charges against Sgt. Russel be dropped He deserves care and support, not prison.  We protest American military personnel coming home and becoming PRISONERS OF WAR after serving their country and breaking under PTSD.   

DECRIMINALIZE MENTAL ILLNESS.  No one can be punished or rehabilitated into a state of mental health.


~   A 2007 Army survey of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan showed that soldiers' mental health deteriorates significantly each time they go to war.

~   Overall, the Army's suicide rate reached a record level in 2008 and is still climbing.

~   More than 27%of the noncommissioned officers surveyed on their third or fourth deployment reported depression, anxiety or acute stress -- compared with 18% of those on their second deployment and 11% on their first tour.

Better security should have been in place
.  Sgt. Russel's superiors recognized he had developed psychological problems.  Even one of his victims reportedly told his mom during a Mother's Day phone call about the soldier who had suffered a mental meltdown on base.  Sgt. Russel's condition was obvious, but nothing was done to safeguard him and his fellow soldiers except order him to treatment.  No one made him stay. 

During a psychotic episode, Sgt. Russel riled at the clinic personnel.  He was then escorted AWAY from the stress clinic at Camp Liberty because he, a sick soldier, had acted erratically there.  Why was the soldier sent away from the only place on base that could help him?  Restraint and enforced treatment in his case would have saved lives.  Sgt. Russel allegedly overpowered the armed guard while being escorted from Camp Liberty's clinic and took his weapon.  As horribly as the situation turned out for six families, it could have been much worse if Sgt. Russel had access to a granade.  He had lost his reasoning skills completely.

If measures are not in place to protect soldiers who break under pressure in combat zones and their comrades, there should be some.  When will this country learn that people suffering from psychosis seldom recognize their own problems?  Sgt. Russel needed help, and it was well-known on base.  Civilians also need better access to mental health services.  But the stipulation that a person must prove to be an immediate danger to self or others before treatment is enforced regularly leads to preventable disasters.  Even after psychiatric patients prove to be dangerous to themselves and others, they are more likely to be imprisoned than hospitalized.

"They escorted him out with a guy with a gun," Wilburn Russel said. "That was the worst thing they could have done.

Definition - Psychosis is a loss of contact with reality, usually including false ideas about what is taking place or who one is (delusions) and seeing or hearing things that aren't there (hallucinations).

Many veterans from Viet Nam, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan are imprisoned today for inappropriate behavior caused by PTSD, along with 1.25 million mentally challenged people.  Violent psychiatric patients like Sgt. Russel should be committed to quality mental hospitals - treatment facilities for sick people, not imprisoned for crimes they did not understand or lacked the wherewithal to avoid.  Nonviolent offenders should be in AOTs, communty care programs that combine mandated treatment and subsistence assistance.  Kendra's Law participants in New York experienced around 90% reduction in homelessness, arrests, hospitalizaitons, and incarceration.  AOTs save lives, restore families, promote community safety, and reduce prison costs.

We, the undersigned petitioners, demand that Sgt. Russel not join the ranks of America's 1.25 million inmates who are mentally ill, none of whom should be imprisoned instead of treated.



Statute - Soldier Carries Wounded or Dead Friend

Factual content for this petition is from Washington Post at and USA Today at 
and "What About Our Soldiers?" at


  Please note the number beside your signature and return to the petiiton regularly to see how support for Sgt. Russel grows.  Please help this soldier and his family get needed support by sharing this link:


Thank You for Giving Your Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally ill.

Mr. President:

The undersigned hereby respectfully request that the U.S. Army drop all criminal charges against Sgt. John Russel related to his psychotic episode wherein he took the lives of his comrades.  We believe Sgt. Russel served his country well, but due to repeated deployments into combat zones, he suffered severe Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and Sgt. Russel is not criminally responsible for his offenses

Please see that Sgt. Russel and other acutely mentally ill Americans who commit crimes during psychotic episodes become hospital inpatients, not prison inmates.  No one, particularly our military personnel, should be punished for having a common, treatable health condition.

According to a recent report, 54% of soldiers returning from combat zones suffer some level of PTSD.  Our military personnel and veterans have a soaring suicide rate.  The 1.25 million mentally ill inmates in America include many veterans who are imprisoned because of behavior they could not control.

Please decriminalize mental illness.  Mentally challenged inmates who committed violent crimes should be transferred away from prisons into secure mental hospitals, with no early release by their doctors possible.  Non-violent mentally ill offenders should be released from prison under a mandatory treatment and subsistence program (AOT), such as Kendra's Law, which has been proved to reduce participants' incidents of homelessness, hospitalizations, and incarceration by better than 85%.  Commitment to mental hospitals cost no more per person than warehousing sick people and treating their mental illness in prison.  AOT programs are substantially cheaper than incarceration and more humane.

Please treat Sgt. Russel as an honorable soldier who was wounded doing service for his country.
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