The abstruseness of a DeSoto County couple’s youngest son.
LAKE SUZY — Final “Jeopardy!” Category: “Afghanistan.” Answer: “In the southern arena of Helmand, this is the absolute language; yet, there is no bounded radio bandwidth that incorporates said accent into news, educational and cultural programming.”
Raise your duke if you estimated “What is Pashto?” Add benefit credibility if you additionally apperceive what year that acknowledgment became obsolete. Hint: Paul Hanson.
At their rural and neatly appointed DeSoto County home east of Port Charlotte, a burst account of the abstruseness that was Mark and Cindy Hanson’s youngest son is laid out in the active allowance for a visitor. Best arresting is his Marine Corps helmet, its t still abrasive with able Asian sand. There is a aggressive badge alongside a accompanying commendation. Plus a seven-page, single-spaced advertisement of lamentations, some from choir dating aback to childhood.
The years fly by with anniversary cast of the photo anthology page, Paul the toddler, Paul absurdity about with beforehand brothers James and Chris, Paul admission into the handsome, 6-foot-3 anatomy of adolescent adulthood, aerial school, college. Then the aesthetic makes an brusque bend into an conflicting treeless mural that looks lunar in its desolation.
Paul’s snapshots from the United States’ longest war additionally accommodate artery kids bunched up afore the camera, a arresting chiaroscuro photo of an age-old man in a turban, glimpses of blush in the Safar bazaar. Amid all those images is Paul yukking it up in a Groucho Marx mask.
“I anticipate a lot of Marines, in adjustment to survive, they get adamantine and cruel,” says his father, Mark, a dentist. “Paul was not. Paul was allegedly the unlikeliest Marine there was.”
“He didn’t smoke, he didn’t alcohol and swear. He didn’t party,” adds his mother, Cindy, a nurse. “But there are abounding things he never told us.”
He was in a class by himself: Seven years ago, a kid who spent so abundant of his adolescence kayaking the Peace River, addictive libraries, account voraciously and acquisitive anytime to become a “Jeopardy!” best would advise himself to allege Pashto.
By age 22, too admired to accident on approved convoying duty, at a abroad map bleep cipher anytime heard of, Paul Hanson was the face of America.
In 2010, some 10,000 Marines formed into Helmand to beating Taliban fighters as allotment of the alleged surge.
Among their strongholds was a hardtack apple alleged Safar, a Taliban antecedent for smuggling accoutrements arctic to insurgents in Marja. The locals harbored little adulation for the militants, who clamped bottomward with curfews, banned music and apprenticeship for girls, burdened shopkeepers and farmers, and bloodied men whose beards grew at bereft lengths.
It took 12 canicule in June for the leathernecks to bright the resistance, which larboard abaft hundreds of hidden bombs. Already in command, Company E 2nd Army 1st Marines began amalgam what they would alarm “Combat Outpost Rankel,” in account of a 23-year-old baker gunned bottomward during the offensive.
Four months later, a adherent adolescent Seventh Day Adventist from Florida with infantry training rotated into Rankel. Athletic and physically imposing, he brought forth what accompany declared as “a booming laugh.” And he defied stereotype.
According to mom and dad, by the time Paul Hanson able elementary school, he had apprehend aggregate he could get his easily on, from the Koran to “Mein Kampf,” Tom Clancy to Stephen Hawking. At summertime Pathfinder abbey adolescence camps, he admired arena detective and analytic mysteries, bond it up with debates, arguing like the apostle he said he capital to be someday.
He abstruse to ball cello and saxophone. He fabricated A’s in the clandestine abbey schools that stewarded him through graduation. Paul was a apprentice at Pacific Union College, a Christian advanced arts academy in Napa Valley, aback he absitively to accompany the USMC. Oldest brother Chris was already in the Navy, but Paul’s accommodation was surprising.
“I anticipate he acquainted he may accept been a little babied growing up,” Cindy recalls. “I bethink he said he capital some discipline, and that he capital to accompany an aristocratic angry force, the best of the best.”
Paul aced the aggressive access exam. He aced the Defense Accent Aptitude Battery as well, which able him for specialized accent training in Monterey, California. He declined. He went instead on a Marine Expeditionary Assemblage deployment to the Persian Gulf. He logged abundant time for a acquittal and a chargeless ride on the G.I. Bill.
He volunteered for Afghanistan instead. Afterwards all, he could allege the language. As able-bodied as a little Persian-influenced Dari.
Paul never said abundant to his association about what he did over there.
When he assuredly abashed it up in 2011, he gave them his Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, which included a acclamation he shrugged off as no big deal. But it was account to the family.
Because of his linguistic skills, Cpl. Hanson was Camp Rankel’s official communication amid the Marines, civilians and the Afghan National Army (ANA). He produced a biometrics database, establishing identities via DNA, fingerprints and eye scans for added than 500 locals, including 11 apprehensive “detainees.”
No agnosticism the post-mortem assignment could be gruesome. But biometrics bedevilled bombers, austere the innocent and bound association disputes over acreage and familial relationships. Villagers would band up for the opportunity.
Capt. Sam Jacobson wasn’t Hanson’s advantageous officer, but he knew him well. Jacobson was anchored with the ANA, and leaned heavily on Hanson’s accessible affinity with the locals. Hanson was an aberration who lived alone, at a ambit from his unit. Rousted at all hours of the day and night to accost an arrangement of bounded issues and squabbles, Hanson was Camp Rankel’s de facto gatekeeper, which fabricated him a abeyant sitting avoid for whatever was out there.
“He lived on the wire, average two layers of acid wire strips, array of a awe-inspiring no-man’s acreage on the bend of the base,” Jacobson recalls. “Honestly, it would’ve creeped me out to alive area he did, to alive in this copse berth in the average of this action area and the aing Marine is 100 meters away.”
The Paul Hanson that Jacobson remembers was an character who disarmed alert citizenry by deferring to bounded traditions. Among Hanson’s icebreakers was confined chai tea during meetings, or shuras, with apple elders. Hanson “bridged a lot of gaps that added Marines were not able of achieving,” Jacobson says. “In a way I anticipate if we had added Pauls, our wars would’ve looked actual different. Killing bodies alone gets you so far. Paul was a absolute humanitarian, and he acquainted there were added means to get results.”
Among the added means Camp Rankel attempted to get after-effects was via technology alleged Radio-In-A-Box (RIAB). Isolated from the apple at large, not to acknowledgment government casework in the abroad capitol of Kabul, Afghanistan’s aimless affiliated ability and benightedness amount of 70 percent makes its association accessible to bullhorn propaganda. The Marines in Safar broadcast carriageable hand-cranked or battery-operated radios and erected a manual tower, which would become the town’s tallest landmark.
Safar’s aberrant RIAB platform, which Hanson supervised, gave the ANA administrator a appointment for bringing basic and potentially accumulation advice to the people. Hanson downloaded once-forbidden music and all-embracing actual — in Pashto — alignment from tips on malaria blockage to account from adopted acreage to comedy.
The RIAB streamed tunes from all over the neighborhood, according to Jacobson, “from Tajikstan, Turkey, Iran, India and Pakistan, in Farsi, Uzbek, Urdu and lots of added languages. There’s additionally a acceptable accord of what can alone be declared as Afghan music: newer advance in Pashto and Dari, cut in Jalalabad or up north.”
After missions, Jacobson watched his ANA counterparts army to a tricked-out apostle arrangement chic to the radio dashboard of a appropriate Ford Ranger truck. They cranked it up and danced. “These soldiers,” he noted, “are of altered ethnicities, but they’re all Afghan aback it comes to their music.”
If alone every anamnesis could’ve been so jubilant.
Jacobson was with the ANA aback he heard a bang and saw smoke ascent in the distance. Aback he accustomed on the scene, Hanson had already responded. Schoolchildren benumbed in aback of a tractor-towed flatbed had been absolute to $.25 by a bomb. Hanson was blasting up what was left. Maybe two kids were still adhering to activity aback the medevac helicopter arrived.
That was addition adventure Hanson never aggregate with mom and dad. He ashore with generalities. “He batten of his abundant benevolence for the Afghan people,” says Cindy. “He said it was so actual bleak, that he was sad they had no future, no education, they accept no medical care, they die so adolescent ….”
Hanson’s army administrator ashore to the facts in the official commendation, which assured this way: “(Hanson) fabricated a decidedly absolute appulse on the altercation and alimentation of the absolute Garmser district,” which was “in befitting with the able traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.”
Blizzard of prescriptions
Paul hit the arena active afterwards abrogation the military, aiming for a amount in political economics from the University of California-Berkeley. To get there, he enrolled in 2011 at adjacent De Anza Academy to ster his grades, which he able with ease.
He alleged home every Friday night, and it was bright his focus in the classroom was tenacious. Mom and Dad bethink a adherent from De Anza. She couldn’t attempt with Paul’s ambitions. “He affectionate of bankrupt up with her because he said he was activity to Berkeley and he had to accord it 200 percent,” Mark says.
And there was agitation brewing. Paul had been awarded a 100 percent service-connected affliction for the concrete abrasion and breach he abiding overseas. Bad knees, bad back, etc. He got advice for the aches and pains at a Department of Veterans Affairs ability in San Jose. Paul never d about the concrete stuff. What he complained about was abiding insomnia. He brought it up a lot.
Dad directed Paul’s absorption to a Time annual awning adventure on adept suicides. Paul said no worries, he wasn’t depressed, he aloof couldn’t sleep. He banned counseling, but he submitted to testing for beddy-bye disorder. The after-effects were negative. “That absolutely agitated him,” says Cindy, “because he knew commodity was wrong.”
From February to November 2014, doctors ran him through a blast of prescriptions — Zolpidem, Clonazepam, Alprazolam, Trazadone and Lorazepam for affection levelers, Naproxen and Cyclobenzaprine for anti-inflammatories. Paul told his association the alone affair that helped him beddy-bye was marijuana. But he was abashed it ability affect his grades, so he gave it up. The aftermost time they saw him, three Septembers ago, their son had absent ample weight. He looked beat and gaunt.
On the bookish front, however, Paul was a steamroller. His grades were stellar. He admired to adhere out with professors, and adolescent students/aspiring attorneys bethink him allowance them basic for their LSATs. He aing California’s JusticeCorps to abetment low-income bodies with acknowledged issues, and he plumbed — according to one apprentice — a abysmal able-bodied of “silly jokes and Winnie the Pooh quotes.”
Paul remained accompany with Sam Jacobson, who was accessory law academy bottomward the alley at Stanford. One of their aftermost email exchanges included Jacobson’s awning letter to all-encompassing admissions committees, anachronous Oct. 5, 2014.
Now a accessible apostle for the burghal of New York, Jacobson reminded screening boards that administration isn’t alone about grades, but about affluence that can’t be measured. He wrote about the time Paul aished a alarming flashpoint in Safar, aforetime a poppy-trafficking hub for Taliban fighters. Safar’s ambassador and baronial affiliated colleagues capital to allocate with the one-gun-per-family quotas, and accrue abundant weapons. The implications for the ANA and bounded badge were bright — a heavily armed militia could attenuate their ascendancy and reignite association rivalries.
“Paul told (the mayor) that because he was such an accustomed and admired amount in the community, absolutely no one would appetite to abuse him, and, moreover, he had the Afghan soldiers and his friends, the astute and trusted elders, for protection,” Jacobson wrote. “The ambassador and the elders were satisfied, and backward to allocution about added business. The actuality that Paul was able to anticipate so bound on his anxiety and allege with such address speaks volumes to his abeyant as an advocate.”
Paul would be accustomed by law schools at the University of Virginia, New York University and Berkeley. By Thanksgiving anniversary 2014, he was cat-and-mouse to apprehend aback from Harvard. He was set to alum with able ceremoniousness in the spring. And he was authoritative added plans.
Brother James, a concrete therapist in Port Charlotte, had aureate to California to appointment Paul the antecedent weekend. There was not a adumbration of what was about to appear aback they said goodbye at the airport Sunday evening. The ancestors had the anniversary formed out. On Wednesday, mom and dad would fly into John Wayne Airport alfresco Los Angeles to appointment Paul’s affectionate grandfather. Paul would drive bottomward and aces them up at John Wayne.
Paul never showed. They dialed his buzz and got no answer. On Thursday, Thanksgiving morning, they contacted the Berkeley Badge Department. The cops alleged aback aural 20 minutes. Cindy: “They said, ‘We are so sorry. We accept begin Paul.’”
Days earlier, allegedly anon afterwards he alone James off at the airport, Paul allegedly positioned himself face-up on the attic of his tiny off-campus apartment, ashore the of a .357 Magnum in his mouth, and concluded it.
There was no note, alone a wadded up area of cardboard in the trash. In his own hand, Paul had jotted bottomward a alternation of 10 ammo points. Nine were negative. “He was allocation up area he was at in life,” says mom. “There were things like, you will never be happy, you will never be cool, you will never be normal.” The abandoned absolute account verbatim: “Do the appropriate thing. You can still be a acceptable lawyer.”
In chase of clues, the ancestors scoured Paul’s computer. There wasn’t much. “I bethink he wrote an email, or maybe a agenda to himself, adage ‘I still can’t sleep’ or ‘I anticipate I’m activity crazy,’ commodity like that,” Cindy says. Toxicology appear alone basal traces of Trazadone, the beddy-bye aid, in his system. Cindy and Mark accept copies of a 2016 commodity about aggressive sleep-deprivation psychosis, how it can drive veterans to annihilate themselves.
Paul Hanson, 28, was laid to blow at Sarasota National Cemetery on a brilliant Friday morning, Jan. 2, 2015. The afterward day, a added accessible account was captivated at the Port Charlotte Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Added than 300 attended, including Chinese accompany from California, area Paul had abstruse Mandarin.
Remote testimonials caked in, from UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks (“a active and admired affiliate of the … community”) to Paul Agnew, arch banking administrator at NASA Ames Research Center, area Paul had formed as an intern (“one of the brightest, best able acceptance we accept had”). They came from as far abroad as Afghanistan.
A Camp Rankel interpreter, Aziz Mashal, remembered how the American drifter already asked what his hobbies were. Mashal told him he admired music, but he had no way to accept to it in Safar. Anon thereafter, acknowledgment to Hanson’s mom and dad, the Marine gave him an iPod. It was the alpha of a accord Mashal would never forget.
“One day,” Mashal wrote in his best English, “Hanson told me now you are the man so he gave me a cardboard and told me it is aloof a advocacy letter you are the best and this is for you I still accept that.”
And, of course, there was the trivia thing. Mashal asked his new associate if he could name all the U.S. presidents. Mashal said Hanson ashamed off every name. Exactly how Mashal could verify the accurateness is unknown, but there was acutely added activity on than a account of presidents.
“Hanson,” eulogized the analyst who can accept to whatever music he wants now, “was the smartest man I anytime saw.”
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