Grieving mom pleased late son’s name will find place on Kane memorial
By Denise Crosby email@example.com May 26, 2012 4:58PM
Trish Hansley with a photo of her late son TJ who served in Iraq. Trish's 21 year old son died in his sleep at a military hospital last June after suffering from PTSD and other psychotic disorders after returning from a 12 month tour in Iraq. He died with 15 medicines in his body that had been given to him by doctors there. The family wants TJs name to be included on Kane County Memorial Wall as a casualty of the war. May 23, 2012 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 3, 2012 9:47AM
There’s not a lot you can say to a mom whose grief is so raw. “I’m so sorry” seems to fall far short when every word she utters seems shrouded in despair.
It’s been close to a year now since Trish Hansley buried her 21-year-old son Timothy John — and she breaks down when talking about T.J., who died of a drug overdose while he was a patient in a Texas psychiatric hospital.
But one piece of news has given the South Elgin woman reason to smile: On Monday, she was informed that T.J.’s name will be added to the Kane County Veterans Memorial in Geneva, honoring those who gave their lives in service to this country.
The unanimous decision by the Kane County Veterans Assistance Commission is the first of its kind. Unlike the names of Christopher Patterson of North Aurora and Alex Martinez of Elgin, which will be placed on the Kane County Veterans Memorial in a ceremony on Monday, her son did not die from wounds received on enemy territory.
“But he would still be alive had he not served (in Iraq),” she said. “He did his job there, too.”
Just as importantly for the committee, U.S. Army Private First Class Timothy John Hansley died in the military wing of a hospital, where he was admitted after suffering a serious head injury in a training accident on base.
While his name will be listed on the memorial under the Iraq War, it’s the rules used to determine casualties of the Cold War — where circumstances determine eligibility, rather than a list from the military — that allowed him to be included, said John Carr, superintendent for the veterans commission.
A graduate of South Elgin High School, T.J. entered the service in 2009 because he wanted to become a police officer.
‘A different person’
After a year with the Bravo unit in Iraq — most of it on night patrol, where he suffered several minor injuries from IED (improvised explosive device) explosions — her “outgoing, fun-loving jokester ... came home a different person,” said Trish Hansley.
T.J., who married his high school sweetheart Kristin, took up drinking and showed signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. But things became dramatically worse after he suffered serious head trauma in a training exercise that went wrong in late 2010 while stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso. It took a while for the Army to admit what happened, she said, but a grenade went off accidentally, and T.J. threw himself between it and another soldier.
Returning home after two weeks in the hospital, her son turned angry, impatient — and later began displaying signs of schizophrenia. “He wanted to know why he was going crazy,” Hansley recalled. “He was scared, paranoid. On a couple of occasions, he thought he saw his commander standing outside his door.”
T.J. was admitted to University Behavioral Health of El Paso in February 2011. And when the family talked to him, there were times he seemed out of it; other times, he seemed to be improving.
Then, on June 21 of last year, the call came.
T.J. had not woken up that morning in his hospital bed. An autopsy revealed he had 15 medications in his system — including Seroquel, a highly controversial anti-psychotic drug that has been blamed for hundreds of veterans dying in their sleep.
Trish Hansley’s grief over her son’s unexpected death is only compounded by questions the military is slow to answer: Why so many drugs, especially when he was supposed to be going home soon? Why were two of the drugs in his system not even on the list that had been prescribed by doctors?
She had another question as well. Earlier this month when she read in the paper about Patterson and Martinez being added to the county’s memorial, she wanted to know why T.J. was not included.
Carr said after hearing the circumstances of her son’s death, he gladly forwarded his name and documentation to the committee — which on Monday unanimously agreed that T.J. Hansley will be the 852nd name on the wall.
“We were hoping we would not have to add any more under Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Carr of the two most recent wars that now are coming to an end.
Unfortunately, the time element won’t make it possible for her son’s name to be included this Memorial Day. But Trish Hansley has become used to waiting.
“My son should never have died in that hospital,” she said. “I can’t stop crying until I know why.”