Coast Guard Deserter Spared From Court Martial, Given General Discharge
May. 04, 1991
ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) _ A homeless man who spent nearly 41 years on the run as a Coast Guard deserter was spared a court-martial and discharged Friday.
Daniel Villalon, 68, left the Coast Guard station on Friday with a sister who is organizing a family reunion for the World War II veteran. The sister did not want her name released and Villalon did not want to speak to reporters, said Coast Guard Lt. Dale Garvin.
Villalon served in the Navy for six years from November 1942 to October 1948. During the war, he worked as a fireman aboard the submarine tender USS Fulton while the ship was assigned to the South Pacific.
He joined the Coast Guard in May 1950 and walked off the cutter Winona on Aug. 22, 1950, while the ship was docked in Port Angeles, Wash. He remained absent without leave until April 17, when San Francisco police arrested him for vagrancy and found through a computer check he was wanted by the Coast Guard as a deserter.
Villalon was turned over to the custody of the Coast Guard, which gave him medical care, a haircut, a uniform, food and a place to stay over the past 2 weeks while his case was reviewed.
''He's been eating in the galley and sleeping in the barracks. It was at his own free will. He wasn't under any kind of restriction,'' said Garvin, who had daily contact with Villalon and handled the investigation.
Since there is no statute of limitations on desertion, Villalon could have faced, at worst, a court-martial.
But following an administrative review of his service record, Capt. Winston G. Churchill recommended that Villalon receive a general discharge due to misconduct and Coast Guard headquarters in Washington agreed.
Villalon told officials he went AWOL because of personal problems and feelings of restlessness.
Villalon worked for a time as a steel worker in Fort Worth, Texas, even buying a home, but he left everything behind to satisfy a desire to travel and see the world. He held some odd jobs before drifting into homelessness, Garvin said.