Balancing Safety And Privacy When A Veteran Goes Missing
April 9, 2019
Heard on All Things Considered
A Wisconsin combat veteran was driving down the highway in February when he suddenly found his name, license plate number and mental health information broadcast on the radio, on television and posted on electronic billboards across the state.
"It felt very violating. Because I didn't want everyone who doesn't know me to know I have problems. It made me want to crawl into a bigger hole," he told NPR.
But the "Green Alert" might have saved his life.
"It's still affecting me dramatically and negatively, but at the same time it's quite possible that it's why I'm here right now," says the former Air Force staff sergeant. "It's kind of a double-edged sword."
NPR is not divulging the man's name because he never consented to have his information made public. A new Wisconsin law allows authorities to put that information out the same way an AMBER Alert publicizes missing children or a Silver Alert does for people with cognitive impairment. It's the first Green Alert to take effect — green for the color of military fatigues — though many states are considering the program.
The Wisconsin law is called the Corey Adams Searchlight Act. Adams was an Afghanistan vet from Milwaukee who went missing in 2017. His family feared he was suicidal. But police didn't immediately treat him as a missing person, because unlike children, adults have a right to disappear if they want to.
Adams was found dead weeks later. His family mobilized around the idea of an alert system for veterans and it became law in Wisconsin last year. That attracted a powerful advocate – the retired commander of U.S. special forces in Africa, Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc.
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