By Bob Meola, Courage to Resist. October 10, 1012

In 2006, Brad McCall joined the Regular Army Infantry.  For the back-story on why he joined the Army and what led him to making his decision to go to Canada, his 2007 interview with Courage to Resist can be heard here. He is also featured in our book “About Face, Military Resisters Turn Against War.”

Earlier this year, Brad returned to the U.S. from seeking refuge in Canada and was subsequently discharged from the army.  Here is Brad’s updated story in our recent interview with him:

“I had applied for Refugee Status in Canada and was denied.  After a lot of deliberation, I decided that for my own safety it would be best to just disappear out of the grasp of the conservative government there. Hence, I went ‘underground’ and was in hiding for 4 plus years.  It was definitely a challenge, but the challenges carried their lessons as well, of which I am forever grateful.

“The Canadian people were instrumental in my survival.  The sense of community that I found myself welcomed into always kept me from getting too down.  Out of the thousands of people that I met and told my story to, I remember none that were not supportive of it.  I was fairly open about it, as I trusted that my path would cross those paths that it needed to cross, and that in trusting I should just tell the truth, while using common sense too, of course.  I think that in a way, for a lot of people, meeting me showed an aspect of living that they were not aware of, and in a sense really moved them to re-examine life in a new perspective.

“I never went too hungry though.  Never went without shelter–always had loving people watching my back.  Sure, money was hard to come by at times, and so were jobs. But even they came, miraculously, exactly when I really needed it.  I received gifts a lot of the times.

“In the back of my mind though, there was always fear.  I knew that I was running and I knew that one day I would have to face the beast, especially if I ever wanted to see my family again.  Every day, I stepped towards that eventuality, not knowing when it would arrive.

“I had built a new family in Canada and leaving them was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.  But one day I knew it had to be done finally—that it was time to charge headlong into the fear.

“ I turned myself in on April 4th, 2012.  I had been staying with a friend, who had actually come to Canada to avoid participation in Vietnam, and he drove me to the border to make the final choice.  I recall the suspense was almost unbearable until we arrived at the guard hut.  Then everything began falling into place.  They asked me for I.D., to which I replied, ‘I have none, but I’m sure there are warrants in your system for me.’  The guard was a little perturbed. They asked us to go inside and we complied.  I kept a friendly smile as I told the officer in charge what I was there for.  He was actually very polite.

“They then called me to step back into the area around the corner from where I had been sitting.  I did, and once out of sight of the people in the waiting area, I was surrounded by four officers.  I voluntarily placed my hands behind my back, to their surprise, and said, ‘Hey guys, how’s it going?’ I noticed a certain degree of confusion as they cuffed me and escorted me to a holding cell, where I was searched. “ I sat in the cell for about five minutes, meditating, and knew that the officers were taking turns peaking in at me in the cell.  The door then opened and the officer in charge stepped in and told me that since I had been so compliant, they felt bad about keeping me in the cell and wanted me to continue waiting in the lobby while they contacted the Army.  I had already contacted an AWOL Apprehensions officer at Fort Lewis, so the Army was in the know about my returning.

“The border officials secured flights for me to get back to Fort Carson and printed a map to the nearest bus stop and how to get to the airport.  The officer in charge even shook my hand and welcomed me home.  Overall, I was very pleased with how the border crossing had gone.  My hopes were high.

“I arrived at Fort Carson the next afternoon, and reported into the Rear Guard Commander.  He basically told me not to go AWOL again and to keep myself straight until they figured out what they were to do with me.  I was quickly befriended by a Staff Sergeant who actually obtained permission so that I could leave post the first weekend to go see my mom for the first time in five years, as she was flying in to see me.  I was amazed at how I was treated.  Again, I pursued my path with honesty about where I stood, complying as far as my conscience would allow.  I think this was invaluable.

“I spent three months on the base, sitting in limbo.  It was very trying as I didn’t know what was to happen.  No one could tell me for sure what they would do with me—and the threat of prison was always looming overhead.  I finally got to see a lawyer, and I was able to file for a Chapter 10 discharge in lieu of court martial, which gave me the chance to write a letter to the Commanding Officer of the base there at Fort Carson.  I felt confident that if he actually read the letter, there would be no doubt in his mind that he should just let the individual in question go and live a peaceful life away from the Army.

“I received regular pay once again, which was really nice for a change, as I hadn’t had a regular pay check in some time!  There was no cruel treatment really.  I think since I had been in, the Army has changed a lot.  Morale is way different, and I think a lot of guys kind of wished they could get out, but are kept in with the fear propaganda.  Soldiers are worn out.  The ones with any degree of sensibility want to stay home.  Then again, a lot of them know that if we stop invading countries, they won’t have a job anymore.

“I finally got the news that I had been granted a discharge under “other than honorable” conditions.  Heck, I didn’t really care what kind of discharge it was as long as I could move on with my life.  I was given a plane ticket to leave on June 28th heading home.  And the adventure of a lifetime was coming to a close.

“I am now living in Jacksonville, Florida.  I want to go back to Canada as soon as possible, as the girl I love is there and my closest friends as well.

“In closing, I would like to give thanks to Courage to Resist.  You guys helped me on various occasions, the more recent occasion being when I arrived at Fort Carson and didn’t have a dime to my name, not knowing if I would be paid or not. I was amazed and quite humbled to receive a donation of 400 dollars which kept me going for the weeks up until I did start receiving pay.  For that, and the general moral support, thank you!  Keep up the good work guys!”

Top photo: Brad McCall participating in the “I am Bradley Manning” campaign after returning to the United States. Bottom photo: Brad McCall speaking to a reporter in Canada prior to returning to the US.