ANKARA, Turkey (WLOX) - Jason Dement was at the airport Monday in Ankara, Turkey. A six day vacation was over. It was time to fly back to Germany and go back to work. But, the Purvis High School graduate never got on that plane. And authorities won't let him leave the country.
The issue is a collection of rocks Dement and his wife admit they found on a Turkish beach.
"We have made it a point to collect some rocks and/or sand from every country we go to," Dement writes in a blog he's started that details his ordeal.
As Dement tried to get through the airport's security, the rocks set off a firestorm of problems. Security guards noticed the rocks in Dement's bag, and immediately confiscated what the traveler thought were beach souvenirs.
"The girl doing the translating told me that they would be sending the stones to a local museum historian to verify whether or not they were indeed historical artifacts," he writes.
If they're artifacts, Dement has been told Turkish authorities could charge him with smuggling. And the penalty could be up to five years in prison.
Dement graduated from Purvis High School in 2001. And he immediately joined the Army.
"He's worried. And he's desperately trying to find some help," Karen Dement tells WLOX News.
Karen is Dement's mom. She lives in Gulfport. And she feels so helpless.
"I feel like my hands are tied because he's there and I'm here," Mom said. "I think that's my main concern right now is getting him some help."
She knows if the rocks test positive, and they are artifacts, the situation will become very serious.
"There was no intent there on his part," Mrs. Dement said. "What do you do on the beach? You pick up sand shells and rocks. That's what he did."
The 30-year-old Dement isn't in custody. However, a seven day travel ban has been placed on Dement. So, he can't leave Turkey until a determination is made on the rocks Turkish authorities confiscated. He does have access to a computer. So, he's been posting details of his ordeal on Facebook, and on a blog he started http://www.setjasonfree.blogspot.com/.
His most recent post says, "The legal office on the US Military Installation at Incirlik, Turkey was a tremendous help today. Due to my status as a Department of Defense Civilian (working in Germany), I was entitled to legal advice from their office."
Mom is hoping and praying that advice ultimately gets Jason out of Turkey.
"I don't know what to think," Mrs. Dement said in a phone conversation with WLOX News. "I can't believe it's real."