KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — When Airman 1st Class Edward Hunter abandoned his family and deserted the Air Force in January, it was a mystery to those close to him why he left.

A court-martial Friday helped explain why Hunter might want to flee both the service and his wife and children.

The once-promising airman admitted during the trial that he had forged checks worth thousands of dollars before he left his family and the Air Force.

A military judge sentenced Hunter to 15 months in jail after he pleaded guilty to charges of wrongful appropriation, desertion and writing bad checks, said Capt. Daniel Shephard, an Air Force lawyer who prosecuted the trial. Hunter also was sentenced to the lowest pay grade and given a bad-conduct discharge.

Hunter had kept many secrets from his wife and children, but he revealed one of the biggest at the trial: He admitted he had another child whom they never knew. He did not give any details about the child, whether it is a boy or girl, how old it is or who the mother is.

“I know nothing about that,” his wife, Dawn Harris, said of the unidentified child while speaking by telephone from her home in Fayetteville, N.C. “They never told me about that.”

The Air Force deemed Edward Hunter a deserter after he took leave shortly before Christmas, went to the United States and never returned to work. Hunter, who was assigned to the 435th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, was declared a deserter instead of absent without leave because special agents were investigating him for writing the bad checks.

The Air Force forced his wife and children out of their Sembach Annex apartment because of his deserter status, leaving his family homeless and without a place to go. The family’s predicament generated dozens of offers of support after they lost all benefits and privileges due to his desertion.

Today, she lives in a government housing with her four children but is still finding it difficult to make ends meet. She hasn’t been able to find a job and says her children are struggling.

“We’re just living day to day,” she said. “But things are better.”

Her husband will serve his jail term at the U.S. Army confinement facility in Mannheim.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up