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America's Other Veterans.

FacingAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA the prospect of going to Vietnam to fight for his country in October 1969,AaAaAeAeAaAeAeA U.S. Army Pvt.AaAaAeAeAaAeAeA Bill King was given some advice.AaAaAeAeAaAeAeA "Just say your goodbyes, because you're gone," a senior officer toldAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA King, then 23.AaAaAeAeAaAeAeA TheAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA possibilityAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA of ne his wife, Kristine, who was just 19 at the time, gripped him within moments of receiving his deployment orders.AaAaAeAe

When he told Kristine,AaAaAeAeAaAeAeA the newlywed coupleAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA chose a fate th dramatically change their lives forever.

"We looked at each other and decided right there in the moment," King recalled of the dayAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA when he was unexpectedly ordered to trade in safe, comfortable lifeAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA for one of combat in a war that had alr claimed tens of thousands of U.S. lives. "She said to me, 'Will you come with me?' and I looked at her straight in the eyes and said, 'Let's go to Canada.'"

As the U.S. celebrates Veterans Day Wednesday, King's story of decided desertion almost a half century ago is one that's shared with hundreds of Army draftees, recruits and volunteers over the years, avoiding Vietnam as well asAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Canada had yearsAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA allowed a place of refuge for the former U.S. servicemen, the country'sAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA Conservative government has spent the last decade wor to return them to the States, threatening to disruptAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA King's wor helping the newest generation of U.S. military deserters settle in Canada. But now,AaAaAeAeAaAeAeA a recent change in Canadian government has prov them a fresh sense of hope that deportation orders would be lifted once and for all.AaAaAeAe

A New Life

King hadn't come to the Army willingly to begin with. He'd dodged the draft and wasAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA living a pretty thrilling lifestyle, by his acco "I was playing with ( Janis Joplin and I was a music director," he said this week from his home in Toronto. "We were playing in Memphis in Christmas 1968 and I decided to go home and see my parents because I hadn't seen them in a few years and I was also a little disillusioned working with Janis. There was too many hard drugs for me."

But when King got home to Jefferson, Indiana, he was met with the unexpected: His father had cut a deal with the FBI that would dropAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA all cha for draft evasion if he returned to the Army. King was allowed to stay home for two weeks before setting off for basic training at a base in Kentucky, where he took up the job of base pianist. "I met a lot of people that way, a lot of officers and soldiers. When we spoke about Vietnam, the answer was unanimous.AaAaAeAeAaAeAeA They all said, 'Don't go to Vietna

He was moved to the Fort Dix base in New Jersey within a few months, and his orders of deployment quickly followed.

King tried applying as a conscientious objector, hopingAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA to get discha on compassionate grounds or get permission to serve his Army time anywhere outside of Vietnam. When he was denied,AaAaAeAeAaAeAeA Canada quickly became of the few options he had to get out of a war he resented from the start.

"It was the weight of taking someone else's life and the sense that we were being used by Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew," said King, referencing the U.S. president and vice president, respectively, at the time.

In turn, King and his brideAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA fled into the nearby woods next to base andAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA hitchhikedAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA up to New York City to stay with friend thumbing rides in first a sauerkraut delivery truck to upstate New York and then to the Canadian border with a convict and his 14-year-old girlfriend, King recalled.AaAaAeAeAaAeAeA "They arrested those two but let us acro he said.AaAaAeAeAaAeAeA "We had $95 between the two of us and we just started scratch."

While an arrest warrant was issued for King's desertion, he returned to the U.S. in 1976 after Jimmy Carter announced amnesty for all draft dodgers. As a result, he was dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Army and the arrest warrant deactivated. It meant he could visit the family he left behind in the U.S. and take his Canadian-born son to see them.

A New Generation

AaAaAeAeAaAeAeA AaAaAeAe

In the intervening years, KingAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA played in bands in the Toronto and became the creative director of the Toronto Jazz Festival in the late 1980s. However, theAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA invasion of Iraq in 2003 cast King's back to the '60s and '70s.AaAaAeAeAaAeAeA "I was ready forAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA theAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA deserte started coming inAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA 2004 and I saw my main role as someone who needed to be there for them," he said. "I've been in their shoes and had the same questions and anxieties they had."

As U.S. military personnel began coming across the border looking to avoid further service, King teamed up withAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA Michelle Robidoux, a spokespe for the War Resisters Support Campaign in Canada, to help them navigate the country's legal system. "Bill has played a very important role," said Robidoux. "He was one of the first Vietnam War resisters to come forward and help the new generation to help them claim asylum and stay in Canada."

King noticed a distinct contrast from his own experience as a military deserter and the new group: Many deserters from the Vietnam era had never seen combat, whereas the couple of hundred fleeing after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan were likely suffering from PTSD and other undiagnosed mental disorders, said King. "It was also much harder for them to stand up to the violence in the way we did. They didn't have the split in the U.S. that we had, because [the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were]AaAaAeAeAaAeAeA stage-managed and really shut out the possibility of having a major anti-war movement," he said.

While around 180 U.S. war deserters from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts have either been deported or voluntarily gone back to the U.S., each facingAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA a court martialAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA and certainAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA ( jail sentences , there is a core group of about 20 who remain in Canada as their deportation cases slowly wind through the ( Canadian legal system.

( Asylum-Seekers in Canada by Country of Origin in 2015 | FindTheData

One such person is Joshua Key, who fled to Canada in 2005 after a tour of duty in Iraq. His decision was made the moment he witnessed a young girl gunned down on a street in Ramadi. "I started questioning everything," Key,AaAaAeAeAaAeAeA ( who now lives in Canada and is being sought by U.S. authorities ,AaAaAeAeAaAeAeA over the phone. "We used to have conversations and everyone would have their own reason for [staying]. But I don't think there would be anyone who wouldn't have thought of going AWOL, even if it was just... for a minute."

After spending more than a year on the run inside the U.S., going from city to city and job to job, Key decided that Canada was his only hope ofAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA getting the law off his back. "I knew that it was either mov another place in the States and have to do that same stuff a year later, or move north," he said recently during a phone call from his home in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Getting into Canada was easy, but supporting his family proved difficult, leading to a divorce, and his wife and children movingAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA back to Oklah Key's life since has been fragmented. He has moved from place to place -- Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba. He has remarried and had three more children, and is allowed to remain in Canada while his battle against a deportation order works its way through the courts. He is not allowed to legally work (he supports himself with odd jobs) and cannot travel to the U.S., where he would face a prison sentence of up to 20 years, ( his lawyer said.

But with theAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA newly installedAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA ( Liberal Party government,AaAaAeAeAaAeAeA there's hopeAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA for Key and the r war deserters. TakingAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA power in Ottawa after a decade of Conserva rule, the party hasAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA supported the new generation of war deser since they arrived in the country.

For King, who'sAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA working on drafting a letter with the War Resis group to ask the new Canadian government to drop allAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA legal challe against the deserters, the changing political landscape in Canada isn't just an opportunity for the likes of Key, but a stark reminder of King's similar past whenAaAaAeAeAaAeAeA he first sought refuge in the country under cur Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's father, Pierre.

"[Justin Trudeau] has the charisma to make Canada a place of peace, progress
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Publication:International Business Times - US ed.
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Nov 11, 2015
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