Army frees ex-Carson deserter from brig

July 9, 2009

SAN DIEGO — Army deserter Robin Long was released Thursday from the brig at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego after serving 12 months of a 15-month sentence.

Long, 25, of Boise, Idaho, fled to Canada in 2005 to avoid being deployed to Iraq. He said he could not go to Iraq because of his moral opposition to the war that began with the U.S. invasion in 2003.

Long's forced return to the U.S. by Canadian authorities caused a political furor because many Canadians saw it as a reversal of the country's welcoming attitude toward U.S. deserters and draft evaders during the Vietnam War.

"Wow, what a journey the last four years has been," Long said as he left the brig. He was accompanied by Dawn O'Brien, a board member of Veterans for Peace and a leader in Military Families Speak Out.

After being returned to this country, an Army court-martial sentenced Long to 15 months and a dishonorable discharge.

Even after he is processed out of the Army, Long may not be able to return to Canada, where his girlfriend and their 2-year-old son reside. Canadian law prohibits convicted felons from entering the country, although Long's supporters have vowed to appeal.

Long enlisted in 2003 and was stationed at Fort Carson, Colo., as a private when his unit was ordered to Iraq. In Canada, his application for refugee status was rejected. His supporters said he was the first U.S. service member to be deported from Canada during the Iraq war.

In Canada, Long opened a business encouraging water conservation.

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