Brad McCall is running from the United States government, and wants everyone to know.
McCall, a Dothan native, now lives in a house in Vancouver, Canada, with several anti-war sympathizers who took him in about six months ago after he ran away from the Army.
His critics call him a coward. His supporters say he is brave. He simply calls himself a war resister.
But you can’t call him a draft dodger. He joined the Army on his own in Louisville, Ky., in 2006, and said he supported the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan and Iraq. But after a few weeks in basic training he said he changed his mind when he heard the stories from soldiers returning from a tour in Iraq.
“They were telling us all of the things they did over there; things where you would have thought you were listening to the Nazi tribunals,” McCall told the Dothan Eagle in a telephone interview.
“Innocent people were dying, more of them than the terrorists. That’s when I realized I couldn’t go over there and be a part of that.”
And that’s when McCall said his political views changed as well.
“When I joined up, I agreed with our mission, which was we were fighting terrorism,” he said. “And I agreed that we were looking for weapons of mass destruction, taking a tyrant out of office and bringing freedom to a people that had never known freedom before.
“But now I see the war as being about money to line the pockets of politicians and corporations. It’s a battle over (expletive), pretty much.”
He said he also believes the terrorists have been provoked by the actions of the United States.
“The terrorists we’re fighting are really just guys protecting their neighborhoods,” he said. “If someone came to where I was living like that, I would get my gun and protect my family as well.”
Ozark Mayor Bob Bunting, a 30-year Army veteran who served two tours in Vietnam and was shot down multiple times by enemy soldiers, said McCall deserves to be punished for desertion.
“Mr. McCall administered an oath when he joined the Army,” Bunting said. “That oath obligated him to defend and support our Constitution. I have no use for deserters and perhaps his critics have found the right name to call him.
“What will it take to make believers out of the many who do not understand we are a nation at war, against an enemy made up of fanatics (who are) bound, determined and prepared to destroy this nation and the freedoms we have fought and sacrificed our youth for more than 200 years? Mr. McCall is a deserter and should get no less than what deserters of past wars received.”
McCall said he applied for conscientious objector status, but was denied because his objections were born out of political beliefs and not religious ones.
He was assigned to A Company, 1/67 Armor, 4th Infantry Division, and was scheduled to be deployed to Iraq in June 2008. So, McCall fled to Canada in September 2007.
McCall grew up in south Dothan, close to Cottonwood. He attended school in Cottonwood and Slocomb before dropping out and finishing as a home schooler. He said he “partied too much” in Dothan and had moved to Kentucky to live with his brother. He said he joined the Army because he needed money for college.
“I didn’t really realize what I was getting myself into,” he said.
McCall’s choices have alienated him from his family, whom he refers to as “conservative.”
McCall’s brother is a pastor and his sister in North Carolina is married to a pastor. They still talk, but conversations are often awkward and tense, he said.
McCall is expected to go before a Canadian Court later this month where he has applied for refugee status. He expects to lose, then he predicts a long appeals process. He said he hopes the political climate in Canada changes before his appeal options run out. If it does, he plans on living the rest of his life in Canada.
If it doesn’t, he said he is willing to serve time in a military prison as a war deserter.
“If somehow I get deported, then I guess I will be serving some time in Ft. Leavenworth,” he said. “Do I think that’s fair? No, because I’m standing up for my moral right to make decisions for myself. But I’ll do it.”
According to the Associated Press, the Army classified 3,301 soldiers as deserters in 2006. Military law allows for war-time deserters to be put to death, although that has not happened since 1945. Some are court-martialed and spend time in prison. Many others are dishonorably discharged.