Camilo's Retreat

He left the war behind to enter a whole new controversy

Jason Thomas, another Charlie Company soldier, adds: "Every soldier fighting the current war willingly signed himself over to the U.S. military. As vehement an antiwar activist as he is, Camilo did the same thing. So it irks me that some people treat him and others like him as martyrs."

Even soldiers who supported him acknowledge they resented Camilo for not coming back. "There were a lot of us who didn't agree with the way he handled things," Oliver Perez offers. "But I wouldn't call him a coward."

Camilo admits that the hardest part of his decision to desert the war was leaving his fellow soldiers behind. "These people are my brothers regardless if I didn't agree with what we were doing," he says. "The type of bond that we formed in that type of environment is just so strong. So when you develop that bond and then the other person doesn't want anything to do with you, it's painful. It is like your brother telling you, 'I don't ever want to talk to you again. '"

From left: On May 21, 2004, two military police officers led Camilo away in handcuffs following his conviction on desertion charges.
NEWSCOM
From left: On May 21, 2004, two military police officers led Camilo away in handcuffs following his conviction on desertion charges.
Camilo sits on boxes of correspondence, hundreds of letters he received from supporters while imprisoned at Fort Sill, in Oklahoma.
Jacqueline Carini
Camilo sits on boxes of correspondence, hundreds of letters he received from supporters while imprisoned at Fort Sill, in Oklahoma.

Yes, he has been labeled a coward and a hero, Camilo continues. "But really, I'm neither," he says. "Refusing and resisting this war was my moral duty. Instead, I chose to fulfill my duty as a soldier because I was petrified of the consequences. Coming home back in October 2003 gave me the clarity to see the line between military duty and moral obligation."

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