Jill Tahmooressi stands outside the Mexican Consulate in Miami on May 5 protesting the arrest of her son in Mexico. (J Pat Carter/The Associated Press)
Former Marine Sgt. Andrew P. Tahmooressi is seen in 2012. (Facebook)
As veteran Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi nears three months in a Mexican prison, a Marine Corps three-star general says the Marine Corps is standing by to help him.
Tahmooressi, who left active duty in 2012, was arrested by Mexican officials March 31 after crossing the border at San Ysidro with guns and ammunition in his truck in what he claims was an innocent mistake. His plight, reported by a number of media outlets, has spurred a massive wave of public support.
In a letter this week to Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs Commander Lt. Gen. Robert Milstead said the Corps has limited ability to help Tahmooressi, but was willing to do whatever possible to bring him back.
“I understand ... this matter rests appropriately within the U.S. Department of State’s capable hands,” Milstead said. “While it is not within the Marine Corps’ purview to unilaterally intervene in matters involving a foreign government, I assure you that we are prepared to assist as necessary to the greatest extent permissible under law.”
Milstead also told Hunter that Marine Corps officials stood ready to assist with any communication between Tahmooressi’s legal team and the State Department, Department of Veterans affairs, or any other government organization assisting with his case.
The offer of help came in response to a letter from Hunter to Marine Commandant Gen. Jim Amos, in which the congressman expressed concern about Tahmooressi’s plight and said he had been in contact with Mexican officials who said the Marine vet could only secure a light sentence by claiming to have been incapacitated by symptoms of post-traumatic stress.
If this is the case, Milstead said the Marine Corps is ill-equipped to help: Since Tahmooressi is no longer active-duty, Marine officials are unable to access his medical records or comment on his status.
A spokesman for Hunter, Joe Kasper, said Hunter was encouraged by Milstead’s response.
“The Marine Corps is definitely doing the right thing and stepping up where it can,” Kasper said. “Up until now, the State Department has practically sat on its hands and done nothing more for Andrew than check a few boxes and go through the motions. Marines have shown over more than a decade that they are excellent ambassadors...and it’s safe to say they would do a far better job leading Andrew’s recovery.”
Kasper said Hunter would like to see the State Department move aside and allow the Marine Corps to secure Tahmooressi’s release through diplomatic channels. He also said the question of Tahmooressi’s post-traumatic stress symptoms should not be a contingency surrounding his safe return.
“PTSD is not a competency determination, so it’s important for the Marine Corps as well as the entire U.S. government to make sure that Mexico has a clear understanding of PTSD, as well as the fact that Andrew’s actions were simply a mistake,” he said.
Tahmooressi now awaits a court date, having reportedly fired a second attorney for as-yet unknown reasons.