Jill Tahmooressi, the mother of jailed Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, 25, says her son knows about, and is encouraged by, those who are fighting for his freedom.
“He fought for them, and now it is so nice to see so many are willing to fight for him,” she told WND in an interview on Tuesday.
Andrew Tahmooressi took a wrong turn on a highway near San Diego two months ago and ended up inside Mexico. His problems developed because he was carrying his belongings with him, including several weapons, and they prompted army officials there to take him into custody. He’s been jailed there ever since.
“It’s hard to stay positive, because he has endured so much corruption and brutality in the Mexican system,” she said. She told how his first attorney told him to perjure himself on the stand, to state that he had never been to Mexico, and that he had just arrived in San Diego (he actually arrived earlier that month).
“He stood and corrected him,” she said.
That did not go well for him.
“We assumed that since he was a lawyer on the consulate list, he had been vetted by the U.S. State Department. But my son doesn’t lie, and couldn’t perjure himself on the stand, no matter what the lawyer advised.”
She said things went from bad to worse when he was put in the La Mesa prison.
Hear her comments:
“He seriously thought he was going to be raped, tortured and killed in La Mesa (the prison), but his faith and those out there willing to fight for him keep him going,” she said.
The tearful mother told WND that she remembers getting the most horrifying phone call of her life. It was her son’s terrified voice on the other end said, “Mom, whatever you do, don’t come down here (to Mexico). I am not going to make it through the night.”
She understood that Andrew believed that night those he assumed were aiming for his life would have no qualms about killing her, too.
That night she spent “curled in a fetal position” and clutching her Bible, she said. She spent 12 agonizing hours like that, until the phone rang again.
This call was a very different sounding Andrew, upbeat and hopeful again, saying. “They were going to kill me, but I escaped and I got into a safer part of the jail.”
The next phone call kept her on the roller coaster. This was an official from the State Department who began the call by asking if she was driving, and then if she would sit down.
“Your son is hurt,” he told her. “He has a neck wound. The officials say he broke a light bulb and cut his own throat.”
Though Andrew has never been suicidal, and even his PTSD evaluation said he was not a suicide risk, Jill Tahmooressi believes he may have cut himself in a strategic attempt to try to get away from drug lords hurting and threatening him in the La Mesa prison cell.
If that was his motive, it worked. He ended up in the infirmary and though he was shackled, he was safe.
Jill Tahmooressi, a nurse, opted not to interrogate her son about the incident and add to his stress. She trusts that he did it for the right reasons, if he did it, and she said that the last time she visited Andrew (with Greta Van Susteren), the wound appeared to be healing well, though when she looked at Andrew’s neck, he commented that “it bled a lot.”
The Marine was arrested by Mexican officials when he took a wrong turn at a confusing highway exit and ended up across the border. He called 911 and asked them to help him while he was at the border, because he had all of his worldly possessions in his Ford F-150 truck, including his legal weapons.
“He wasn’t trying to sneak anything past anyone, or he would not have called for help,” his impassioned mother contends. “That’s not who he is.”
Andrew Tahmooressi graduated with honors as a Florida Bright Scholar and was a pilot by the age of 17.
“He could have chosen any public university in the country,” his mother said, “but he knew he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do yet, and he told me he didn’t want to waste the government’s money, or mine. That’s the kind of person he is.”
Andrew decided to take some time to reflect before making big lifetime decisions, and drove to Alaska from his home in Florida, to join a commercial fishing crew.
After he returned, he joined his family for a church service on the Fourth of July. He told his mom that he felt he had a calling that day.
She recalls his comment: “Mom, I think God nudged me in church. I think I am supposed to go into the military.”
But like everything he does in his life, he wanted to go “all in,” she reflected. “He wanted to be a Marine!”
He served two tours of duty in Afghanistan where he was injured both times, suffering two severe concussions. In one incident, he blacked completely out.
“We don’t know how many hours he was out, but he was found later, and we know it was a total black out blow to his head.”
Ultimately, Andrew was honorably discharged and meritoriously decorated with the rank of sergeant, a very unusual decoration for someone so young.
His mom admits that her son had trouble after seeing combat.
“He saw everything, he saved lives, but it cost him,” she said.
He had trouble getting back to being himself when he came home. She said he knew battlefield secrets, and it made it hard for him to just go on with his life as planned.
So on March 1, Andrew Tahmooressi arrived in San Diego to meet up with his close friend, Sam, from his tour in Afghanistan. On March 12, Andrew was seen in San Diego, tested, and ultimately diagnosed with PTSD. His first appointment for group counseling would have been March 31, but that is the day he took a fateful turn and was arrested.
“That’s why I worry,” Jill said. “He is already injured, needs counseling to get over the trauma of combat, and now he is being brutalized all over again, when he was supposed to be starting his therapy.”
Always a top student, Sgt. Tahmooressi had a $150,000 scholarship and was slated to begin at Embry Riddle Aeronautical School, but the anxiety from the PTSD made it difficult for him to concentrate.
That prompted him to decide to wait on school, and work on the PTSD symptoms first. He was just in the process of doing exactly that when he was imprisoned in Mexico.
“There, it is ‘guilty until proven innocent,’” Jill said. “But my son is the poster child for the ‘All American’ – a top student, honest to a fault, faithful, proud to serve his country.”
But she admits that “a sense of driving direction is not his strong suit” and she wasn’t surprised he took that wrong turn.
Others say that wrong turn is easy to make. The signs sat on the ground and it was in a construction zone, so blockades, signs and other features were being moved constantly.
Even if the signs were in place when Andrew made his turn, some question if he could have seen the sign sitting on the ground from the height of the Ford F-150 he was driving that day, especially in heavy traffic that could have also blocked his line of sight.
“I just want my son to be free. This was an accident, or he wouldn’t have declared the weapons at the border, and confessed them to the 911 operator,” Jill said.
She said she is dissatisfied with the U.S. government, as well.
“I want more than three words uttered about my son. All this administration has said is that they will ‘raise the issue’ with regard to my son’s imprisonment for a mistake.”
She said she understands he made a mistake, but that the trauma he suffered to defend both Mexicans and Americans from terror means he needs and deserves proper care and treatment.
She says her faith has kept her strong.
“Every time he calls me we pray together. We pray for those helping us, we pray for his freedom, and we also pray for the guards in the Mexican prison.”