For some reason I’ve had several experiences in my life with deserters, one intimately, so I know something of the law on this subject. Or thought I did.
My first encounter was when I was 9, and we were told to report to the town square in our Little League uniforms for a parade. 1954 I think. The parade was for a returning POW from Korea, and the whole town showed up; the high school marching band, the local miner’s union with their banners, Lions Club and even one of the church (we only had one) ladies’ groups. The town was about a mile long, and we marched the length of it, the returning hero in the back seat of a nice open convertible. At the end of town the parade just broke up and we all walked home, except for the guest of honor, who was taken about another mile to a secluded country club…where I think, most of the town believed he was to be feasted. Only, my dad told me, there was a troop of MP’s waiting here, where they took this soldier away. Dad said he’d been a deserter and collaborator with the commies in the camps. A snitch. Even 9 year olds understood that.
My second encounter was more intimate, in 1974, when Pres Ford announced his amnesty program for all the draft dodgers, which to the military also meant a more lenient attitude toward deserters who would come in on their own. One kid from Florida had turned himself in Australia, where he had spent two years. He was moved to an administrative holding company in Hawaii, and charged with desertion, at that time facing 20 years in Leavenworth and a Dishonorable Discharge (DD). He requested me as his defense counsel, and I flew out to Ft Shafter from Tokyo to meet him….