A U.S. Army specialist who fled Fort Bragg for Canada after learning his unit was to be deployed to Iraq was ordered deported Wednesday.
Jeremy Hinzman, 29, is likely to be court-martialed when he returns to the U.S. and could face up to five years in prison. Hinzman said Canada's Border Services Agency ordered him to leave the country by Sept. 23.
Before he fled Fort Bragg in January 2004, Hinzman had already served a tour of duty with the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan. He served in a noncombat position because before his unit left in 2002, he applied for conscientious objector status.
In December 2003, the unit was ordered to Iraq, but he left for Canada with his wife and son shortly thereafter. He had served three years in the Army and was one of the first U.S. deserters from Iraq to seek refugee status in Canada.
He said he refused to participate in what he calls an immoral and illegal war.
“I'm disappointed, but I think that every soldier that has refused to fight in Iraq has done a good thing and I'm not ashamed,” Hinzman said.
He said Canada's Border Services agency said there would not be any undue hardship on him if was deported.
The Immigration and Refugee Board rejected his claim for refugee status in 2005 and the Federal Court of Appeal held that he would not face any serious punishment if returned to the United States.
Hinzman took his pleas to the Supreme Court of Canada, which refused to hear the case.
Hinzman enlisted voluntarily and said he joined the Army for a variety of reasons, including the college fund. But after joining, he realized he could not bring himself to kill.
“I went through all the training. I served honorably in my unit. I used Army provisions to try become a noncombatant and remain in the Army as a medic or something, but I still would be subject to going on combat missions as a medic,” Hinzman said.
“I can't bring myself to shoot another person. If people want to criticize me for that, then I'm honored to be criticized because I'm not a killer.”
About 200 American deserters are believed to have come to Canada trying to avoid service in Iraq.
So far, Canadian immigration officials and the courts have rejected efforts to grant them refugee status.
During the Vietnam War, up to 90,000 Americans won refuge in Canada, most of them to avoid the military draft. The majority went home after the United States granted amnesty in the late 1970s.