1968 deserter nabbed at B.C. border

Sun, March 12, 2006


VANCOUVER -- A B.C. grandfather is languishing in confinement at a U.S. military base - under arrest for deserting the marine corps 38 years ago because he didn't want to fight in Vietnam.

Allen Abney, 56, is in custody at Camp Pendleton near San Diego.

His family in the East Kootenay is anxiously awaiting word on what's next for the father of three who deserted the marines and fled to Vancouver in 1968 at the age of 19.

Charges of desertion can result in what's known as other-than-honourable discharges, a special court martial and sentences of up to one year in military jail, or a general court martial. The maximum penalty is five years behind bars.

"I really cannot conceive that that's a possibility. I really want to stress that," said Lynn Gonzales, who works with the San Diego Military Counselling Project, a branch of the GI Rights Hotline. Gonzales was to meet with Abney yesterday.

Abney, a Canadian citizen since 1977, was taken into custody on Thursday.

He and wife Adrienne were crossing into Idaho from their hometown of Kingsgate, B.C., bound for a holiday in Reno. "They stopped us at customs. I handed over our passports and they called us in. After 20 minutes of sitting there, they took him," Adrienne said.

Adrienne said her husband had travelled into the United States dozens, if not hundreds of times, with no problem whatsoever.

Allen was born in Kentucky but has lived in Canada since he was 10. He had joined the marines voluntarily.

A marines spokesman said Abney will be returned to his original unit, where the commander will decide what happens next.