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Marine deserter pleads guilty to desertion; discharged on bad conduct

September 24, 1997

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (AP) _ A Marine absent without leave since the Vietnam War pleaded guilty to desertion Tuesday and received a bad conduct discharge.

Pvt. Randall J. Caudill, 48, could have been sentenced to up to three years of confinement. He is expected to be released by the weekend.

Judge Lt. Col. John Blanche asked Caudill why he enlisted in 1966.

``At the time, to serve my country and go to Vietnam,″ said Caudil, dressed in military-issue khaki shirt and slacks for the general court-martial.

In 1968, Caudill’s Camp Pendleton unit was given orders to head for Vietnam. The 19-year-old radio operator fled to Canada, where he gained legal residency through his wife, a Canadian citizen.

Asked why he went to Canada, Caudill said, ``I was 19 and not very pleased with the situation at the time.″

His lawyer, Maj. Daniel Lecce, said Caudill was ``disenchanted″ with the Marine Corps in the Vietnam era and believed his fellow Marines were not properly trained to fight.

``He was no longer interested in remaining in the Marine Corps. It was not a political statement ... they were sending many, many men to countries _ without what he thought was the proper training _ and he wanted no part of it.″

Caudill was arrested Sept. 9 at the U.S.-Canada border when U.S. immigration officials conducted a random sweep aboard a ferry from Canada discovered that he was still listed as a deserter.

Amnesty was granted to Vietnam-era draft dodgers who fled to Canada, but not to deserters.

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