After returning from a year-long Iraq deployment, filed for a conscientious objector discharge March 2004. Mark went AWOL to resist redeployment January 2005. A year and half later, he held a press conference near Crawford, Texas before returning to the Army. He was released after seven months in the brig August 2007.
Mark Wilkerson enlisted prior to September 11, shortly after graduating from high school. After basic training he was sent to Ft. Hood, TX. In March 2003 he deployed to Iraq with the 720th Military Police Battalion. His views on war having changed after service in Iraq, Wilkerson applied for conscientious objector status immediately upon return from Iraq in March 2004. He was denied. In July, while his application was still being processed, Wilkerson’s unit was told they were returning to Iraq in January 2005. The C.O. claim was officially denied in November. He applied for a review, and was told it wouldn’t be considered until his unit returned from Iraq, more than a year away.
Wilkerson made the difficult decision to go AWOL. A year and a half later, he surrendered at Fort Hood with a dozen war protesters by his side. Wilkerson said he was “tired of running” and sought help from Cindy Sheehan’s protest camp in nearby Crawford, Texas, which helps educate soldiers about their rights as war resisters.
“I just could not in good conscience go back to a war I felt was wrong,” Wilkerson, 22, of Colorado Springs, Colo., said at Sheehan’s camp before the 40-mile trip to the post near Killeen where he had been stationed.
On February 22, 2007 Wilkerson was sentenced to 7 months in prison with a Bad Conduct Discharge. Wilkerson was charged with an Article 85 (desertion) and an Article 87 (missing movement) after failing to return from block leave on January 3rd, 2005. In December he signed a plea bargain admitting to his guilt and lessening his sentence from a maximum of 6 years to a maximum of 10 months.