FORT CARSON, Colo. – A female soldier in the U.S. Army pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of desertion after fleeing to Canada to avoid a second tour of duty in the Iraq war.
Pfc. Kimberly Rivera was sentenced to 10 months in prison and a bad-conduct discharge after entering her plea at a court-martial.
Rivera, 30, was a wheeled-vehicle driver in Fort Carson’s 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and served in Iraq in 2006. She has said that, while there, she became disillusioned with the U.S. mission in Iraq.
During a two-week leave in the U.S. in 2007, Rivera crossed the Canadian border after she was ordered to serve another tour in Iraq.
The Colorado Springs Gazette reported that when judge Col. Timothy Grammel asked Rivera on Monday how long she remained absent, Rivera replied: As long as I possibly could, sir. ... I intended to quit my job permanently.
After fleeing to Canada, Rivera applied for refugee status, then permanent residency, then requested permission to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. All were denied.
Rivera was first ordered to leave Canada or face deportation in 2009, but she appealed that decision. The mother of four faced another deportation order issued in 2012. She was arrested at the U.S. border and taken into military custody.
Roughly 19,000 people signed an online petition in Canada protesting Rivera’s deportation order, and rallies were held in a number of Canadian cities calling on the government to let her stay.
At her 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 and take their children, The Gazette reported.
Rivera’s civilian defense attorney, James Matthew Branum, said Rivera never sought conscientious-objector status because she didn’t know she could. He said Rivera should have been told when she met with a chaplain in Iraq over concerns that she couldn’t take a life, The Gazette reported.
In 2012, the War Resisters Support Campaign, a Canadian activist group, estimated about 200 Iraq war resisters are in Canada.