Female US soldier pleads guilty to desertion

By ERIN PRATER | The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) | Published: April 30, 2013

The first female soldier to flee to Canada to avoid the Iraq War was sentenced by a military judge Monday to 10 months confinement and a bad conduct discharge.

Pfc. Kimberly Rivera, with the Fort Carson’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, pleaded guilty to two counts of desertion at the Monday court-martial.

Rivera, who served as a front gate guard at Forward Operating Base Loyalty in Baghdad during a 2006-2007 tour, was granted leave in January 2007 but failed to return to duty.

When asked by judge Col. Timothy Grammel how long she remained absent, Rivera replied, “As long as I possibly could, sir. ... I intended to quit my job permanently.”

Rivera, 30, also said the military “doesn’t reflect who I want to be anymore.”

During a sentencing hearing, government lawyers argued that Rivera, who was granted leave shortly into her tour to work out marital issues, failed to return because her husband threatened to leave her and take their children.

Rivera’s civilian defense attorney, James Matthew Branum, argued that Rivera is a conscientious objector even though she never filed for such a status. She failed to file because she didn’t know the option was available to her, he said.

He said Rivera should have been informed about it when she met with a chaplain in Iraq over concerns that she couldn’t take a life if required to, he said.

“Maybe there were lives saved because an unreliable combat soldier” didn’t return to duty, Branum argued before sentencing.

After fleeing to Canada with her family, Rivera began voicing anti-war sentiments via a blog that was discovered by her comrades in Iraq, Staff Staff Sgt. Amelia Nelson, a former co-worker of Rivera, said in court on Monday.

Rivera wrote that seeing “wounded, injured and killed civilians on a daily basis was normal,” Nelson recalled in court.

But “nothing like that had been seen at the front gate” where Rivera worked, Nelson said.

Fourteen anti-war activists attended the court-martial Monday to support Rivera.

One, who befriended Rivera after she was brought back to Fort Carson last year, testified on her behalf during the sentencing hearing.

“Her heart is like a Mennonite or Quaker,” said Nadine Jackson, a member of the Pikes Peak Justice & Peace Commission,

Rivera, facing deportation, turned herself in at the U.S.-Canadian border in September 2012.

She was returned to Fort Carson and has been on active duty since.

She is pregnant with her fifth child, due in December.


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