My father served during World War II and my older brother served during the early years of the Vietnam War.  I did not get to serve because of a disability and I tried to get a waiver, so that I could serve, but was denied.  I was extremely disappointed at their decision then and even now…so many years later.  If given the chance, I would have not hesitated to go to Vietnam and done my duty to my country.  I realize that I am probably alive today because I was denied, but I will never know.

So, when I read an article about somebody who deserts, it makes me very upset.  This person knowingly joined the Army, went to Iraq, for three months, came home on leave, decided that she was opposed to the fighting in Iraq, and rather than be redeployed back to Iraq, she flees to Canada. She knew what she was facing when she signed up for the Army and could have asked for conscientious objector status, but, instead she fled to Toronto to live with her partner and their children.

But before I digress too much, here is the rest of the story: An Army private believed to be the first female U.S. soldier, to seek refuge in Canada rather than return to duty in Iraq, was sentenced to 10 months in prison after pleading guilty to desertion.

Kimberly Rivera, who said she grew opposed to the war during a three-month tour of duty in Iraq, pleaded guilty at a court-martial proceeding in Fort Carson, Colo., on Monday and was sentenced immediately.  In addition to the prison time, the 30-year-old private was reduced in rank, ordered to forfeit pay and benefits and given a bad-conduct discharge.

Rivera fled to Toronto in 2007 while on leave after serving in Iraq with Fort Carson’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, in Baghdad.  She had surrendered to U.S. border patrol authorities in upstate New York last September after a Canadian court ordered her deported to the United States.  This occurred, after several years spent by Rivera, unsuccessfully seeking asylum in Canada.

It is believed that Rivera was the first and only female U.S. military deserter to flee to Canada during the Iraq war and according to Canadian officials the only U.S. female soldier to request asylum in Canada.

Rivera stated that she developed an opposition to the U.S. military mission in Iraq based on her experience while there.

Under a deal struck with military prosecutors, Rivera agreed to plead guilty in exchange for having her prison term limited to 10 months. Rivera faced a maximum five-year sentence and a dishonorable discharge had she been convicted at trial, military authorities said.

Rivera will remain at a county jail in Colorado for seven to 10 days before she will be transferred to a military prison, mostly likely the brig at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California.

Rivera is pregnant with her fifth child, and her lawyer said that he will appeal to an Army judge for clemency on “humanitarian grounds.”

I was glad that she will be punished for her refusal to serve, but I would wonder what sentence she would have received if, she was not pregnant, with her fifth child, and if, she had not been a woman.  I can tell you that in my 30 years of corrections, most judges are more lenient when sentencing women.  I would also be curious, to see if she will be allowed back into Canada, after serving her sentence.

There were ways to stay in the military and not serve on the front lines, but I think this was more to do with being with her partner and less about her feels concerning the war in Iraq.  The shame of it all is that due to her selfish acts, it is her children who will now suffer.

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