Chapter 1 Reflections of an American Deserter


If I was going to say my most fulfilling day, it might have been in ’64 when I was college freshman playing Santa Claus for Cheyenne, Oklahoma, my hometown.

Another possibility would be the day our Scout troop marched down Main Street, rounding off our trek from Texas - my thighs chaffed and cheeks peeling. Or perhaps the day I entered Yale, through Phelps Gate, placing my foot on higher ground.

Or how about that later day during our Vietnam war when I was absent without leave, flying into Stockholm a self-made exile. Now we're talking fulfillment in terms of "coming out." I looked down on a landscape boot-deep in snow, not knowing if the Swedes would let me stay or if my own would ever have me back.

”Fulfillment" is grown-up word and I have lived my grown-up life in Sweden, so maybe I should start the book with my arrival here. But then you wouldn't get to know me right, wouldn't really learn to understand me. When you heard me say that I deserted, you wouldn't hear a half-truth.

My Thomas said America deserted me. Maybe that's part of it.

Or maybe you could say that I deserted Mom, and my leaving wasn't about the war at all. And there would be some truth to that.

It would at any rate be true to say deserting was an outward sign of something inside me. I would still love to hear the news say all the soldiers had gone home and given up on soldiering.

But hey, we really need to start somewhere, so let's go to the day my hometown gave me a mandate to spread peace.