by Craig Masters
It might sound like a call to take matters into our own hands, and that’s just what it might take this time. But if the Mexican armed forces are armed with 60 year old Sears and Roebuck .410’s, I’ll lead this mission myself. After all, the Obama administration is so impotent in matters dealing with Mexico that civilian organized raids may be our only recourse to stop these attempts to extort money for Americans’ release from cartel controlled border prisons.
Jon Hammer served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He received an honorable discharge in 2007 and then continued to serve another four years in inactive reserve. He was willing to risk life and limbs for the chance for freedom for the people of Fallujah, Iraq. By the time he returned home, like so many other veterans, he needed help to forget the attack on his battalion that killed 13 and wounded more than 100.
Re-entry into civilian life was not easy. Hammer voluntarily checked himself into the Napa Valley residential treatment center for PTSD, The Pathway Home. He completed his program in the spring of 2012 and returned to his home in south Florida.
Once back in Florida, Hammer and another marine friend bought an old Winnebago motorhome and spent another $3000 making it road-worthy for their planned trip to surf their worries away in Costa Rica. But in addition to their nine surfboards, Hammer packed along his great-grandfather’s Sears and Roebuck brand .410 shotgun. The 60 year old antique shotgun had been handed down through generations of his family. His mother called it, “a part of him.”
When the marine reported the possession of the shotgun to a US Border Protection agent near the Los Indios crossing, he was assured it would be permitted for transit if he registered it with the Mexican authorities when entering Mexico. The US agent gave Hammer a form he called a registration and explained the costs he would be charged by Mexico. But the Mexican border agents disregarded the form from the US agent and arrested both marines. Several days later the second marine, Ian McDonough, was released without ever being permitted to see Hammer while being detained.
Finally, after several days in custody, Mexican authorities charged Hammer with the “serious” crime of “possession of a weapon restricted for use to Mexico’s armed forces.” So there we have it, these guys don’t even have the weapons expertise to measure the barrel length of an antique shotgun. The charge is based on their mis-measurement and assertion that the barrel of this collectable .410 is less than 25 inches. And also, maybe the fact that McDonough didn’t have family living in a wealthy sounding place like Palmetto Bay, Florida. In fact, McDonough had lived off-and-on in Argentina.
Following his arrest, Hammer was placed in a section of the Matamoros prison controlled by the Zeta drug cartel, according to attorney Eddie Varon-Levy. The attorney was hired after the Hammars were repeatedly called from the prison by persons trying to force them to pay to have their son released. During one such call they even put Jon on the phone to tell his mother to pay them. The callers told Olivia Hammer, Jon’s mother, that “the US consulate can’t help you.”
And now, several months later, it seems the consulate has been unable or unwilling to help.
Florida representative, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R), has said, “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. 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.”
The real danger of a rescue mission will be the heavily armed drug and gun smugglers along the border south of Brownsville and stretching north to Falcon Lake ( David Hartley, 2010). With their US supplied AR-15’s and other weapons more modern than a 60 year old .410, it is no wonder the cartels control the prison, the US Consulate, and the local authorities.
Nevertheless, it may be time to go get a fellow marine and stop the extortion calls.