WEST RUTLAND, Vt. (AP) _ The mother of a man who deserted the Marines in Vietnam says it was wonderful to see him after a 17-year separation, even if he was in a brig.

Christine Beane met her son, Douglas, at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia, where he faces charges stemming from his desertion.

Beane was arrested last week when he returned to the United States fom Australia, where he has lived since 1970, to visit his ailing father.

''I feel better now because I understand he isn't in shackles and is not suffering much,'' she said Tuesday. ''It was absolutely wonderful to see him.

''I think he feels better. He needed to see someone from the family,'' she said.

Mrs. Beane traveled to Quantico by bus Saturday accompanied by a granddaughter. The two visited her son at the base Sunday afternoon and Monday morning.

Beane returned to the United States primarily to see his father, Donald Beane, who suffers from circulatory and other health problems.

When Beane applied for a visa, the U.S. government sought extradition. An Australian court rejected the request, but Beane decided to travel home and risk arrest.

He will turn 40 on Friday. His mother said she hopes the Marines will give him ''the best birthday present possible - his freedom, not only from the charges that have been hanging over his head for so long but the freedom to be with his family after all these years.''