TV and radio host Montel Williams, who is also a retired Navy lieutenant commander, delivered an emotional message to President Barack Obama on the need to quickly bring U.S. Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi home, and ensure others with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are given proper care in the United States.
Tahmooressi has been held prisoner in Mexico since March, after he mistakenly crossed the border with guns in violation of Mexican law.
Williams said six months in prison is far too long for a soldier who was diagnosed with PTSD, and who may have crossed into Mexico accidentally because of his PTSD.
"To me, this is an abomination," Williams said as he teared up at a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on Wednesday. "Six months. He didn't hesitate to say 'aye aye, sir' to go up and serve. How dare we. How dare we as a nation hesitate to get that young man back."
Williams later called on President Barack Obama to "make the call today" to get Mexico to release Tahmooressi.
Williams said he's worried that if and when Tahmooressi returns to the U.S., he will have to undergo treatment for the PTSD he developed from his two tours in Afghanistan, plus the PTSD he's likely to develop due to his incarceration in Mexico.
Both Williams and the Marine's mother, Jill Tahmooressi, reported that Sgt. Tahmooressi has undergone beatings and other physical abuse while in prison.
"We know for a fact that Sgt. Tahmooressi's time in this prison has been worse than his time in both combat situations," Williams said. He added later that the Marine is being treated "like a POW."
Williams said this case is just a symptom of America's "greater policy failure" in helping soldiers who return home with PTSD.
"We currently have over 600,000 veterans suffering from residual symptoms from traumatic brain injury right now in the VA system," Williams said. He said many of these vets feel "abandoned" by the government, and with good reason in some cases.
"Woe be it to us to let this case go by and then have to deal with the other 600,000 soldiers who are suffering who could make the same mistake," Williams said. "Andrew is one of the best of us, America's treasure, and if we can't treat the best better than we treat the worst, how dare you ask another gentleman to put on a uniform."
At the start of the hearing, lawmakers said they believe Mexico is close to releasing Tahmooressi.