Dean has served two tours of duty in Iraq, but it wasn't until he was stationed at a US military hospital in Germany that he saw the true cost of war.
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 US 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 US military hospital in Stuttgart, Germany. There, families of mortally wounded US 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 – US 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 US, 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.
Since that time, Dean has built a life in Canada. He now lives in the Peterborough area with his partner and their children, and continues to speak out on behalf of peace.
On Tuesday, December 14, the Federal Court will hear Dean's appeal of the negative decisions on his Pre-Removal Risk Assessment and his request to be allowed to stay in Canada on Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds.
Canadians have spoken out overwhelmingly in support of Iraq war resisters being allowed to stay in Canada. These young men and women made a difficult decision to not participate in the illegal and immoral war in Iraq. They have shown tremendous courage, leaving behind their homes, their family, friends and careers.
Yet Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney - who both wanted Canada to participate in the Iraq War - continue to deport Iraq war resisters. War resisters Robin Long and Cliff Cornell were sentenced to long prison terms in US military prisons because the Harper government refused to respect two House of Commons motions (passed June 3, 2008 and March 30, 2009) to stop deporting war resisters and to let them stay. Many war resisters are living under the threat of deportation.
Join a vigil to support Dean and to demand that the Harper government respect Canadian democracy and the will of the Canadian people. It is time to let the war resisters stay!
WHEN: Tuesday, December 14, 2010, 8:00 - 9:00 a.m.
WHERE: Federal Court Building, 180 Queen Street West, Toronto west of University Ave, Osgoode subway)
WHY: Let Them Stay!