Instead of deporting American military deserters, Canada should be welcoming them as potential immigrants, says a former U.S. Marine, who went AWOL and ended up in Nova Scotia during the Vietnam War.
“I have a lot of respect for the military,” said Bible Hill resident Dick Cotterill, who made his way to Canada in 1972 after “skipping out” on his marine squadron stationed in Hawaii.
But he said five U.S. deserters currently facing deportation by the end of the month should be allowed to stay because they refused to fight an “illegal and immoral” war.
Making the decision to leave your home and family behind, go into hiding and escape to another country, he said, comes only after someone decides they can no longer support the war effort on ethical grounds.
“Some people say that these people weren’t drafted, they volunteered. Well, I wasn’t drafted. I volunteered and a lot of these people, the same thing that happened to me is happening to them.”
Cotterill joined the Marines in 1969. In his day, the enemy was communism, and Cotterill believed fighting was patriotic.
Three years into his service, his views changed.
“As I met the men and women who were coming home from Vietnam … it became a moral decision for me,” he said. “I didn’t want to participate in that war.”
He tried to get status as a conscientious objector. When that failed, he hopped a plane for home and went AWOL.
Cotterill became acquainted with some anti-war protesters at Cornell University and from there, found his way to Nova Scotia. He’s now a dual citizen, with a family, and is co-owner of a successful business.