War resister Dean Walcott received responses to both his Pre-Removal Risk Assessment and Humanitarian and Compassionate applications today. As expected, both were negative. Dean has been ordered to leave Canada by January 6.
Dean joined the United States Marine Corps in 2000, a few weeks shy of his 18th birthday, hoping to get a college education and some structure in his life. Dean knew if the U.S. went to war, he would be expected to fight, and he fully accepted that risk. In 2003, he was involved in the United States' invasion of Iraq, and was deployed to Iraq a second time in 2005.
Between those two deployments, Dean was stationed at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a U.S. military hospital in Stuttgart, Germany. There, families of mortally wounded U.S. soldiers are flown in to see their loved one for the last time.
Alarmed by the high suicide rate among Landstuhl patients, military brass assigned soldiers to act as liaisons for both patients and visiting families. Dean, who had no training in either health care or counselling, was charged with that duty.
He was totally unprepared for what he saw – U.S. soldiers, as well as Iraqi civilians, blown to bits, but somehow still clinging to life, burn victims dying in unimaginable agony.
"That was the only time I ever saw Marines drop the tough-guy act," says Dean. "I would hold someone in my arms – a mother, father, son or daughter – who was losing a person they loved, and we would cry together."
Dean began having nightmares and became severely depressed. He eventually came to feel that "if people are going to suffer this much, there has to be a better reason than 'because the president said so'."
Back in the U.S., Dean found his disgust at the futility of the Iraq War didn't go away. The Marines obstructed his efforts to get help for his depression and post-traumatic stress symptoms, but there was no legal way for him to leave the military.
Frustrated, trapped and heartsick, in December 2006, he walked away from his base in North Carolina and boarded a Greyhound bus for Toronto.
Dean now trains high school students in computer repair, working for reBOOT Canada, a non-profit organisation that provides computers and technical support to charities and low-income Canadians. He still grapples with PTSD, but has built a quietly productive life in Toronto. He also does public speaking on behalf of war resisters - and on behalf of peace.
If Dean is handed over to the U.S. military, he will be court martialled, imprisoned, and likely given a dishonourable discharge – the equivalent of a felony offence and a permanent criminal record.
Join us tonight, December 3, to learn how you can help. 7:00, Steelworkers Hall, 25 Cecil Street, Toronto.