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Soldier charged with desertion
in office
Cliff Cornell speaks to a reporter in the Courier office. - photo by Photo by Frenchi Jones
The Coastal Courier has learned that Cliff Cornell, 28, a Fort Stewart soldier who went absent without leave and became a deserter for nearly four years after moving to Canada, has been charged with desertion.
In a statement sent to the Courier by Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson, Cornell is said to have violated of Uniformed Code of Military Justice.
"Cornell has been charged with a violation of the UCMJ, Article 85, in that Spc. Clifford B. Cornell Jr., U.S. Army, did, on or about 11 January 2005, with intent to avoid hazardous duty and shirk important service, namely: Operation Iraqi Freedom III, quit his unit, to wit:
1st Battalion, 39th Artillery Regiment, located at or near Fort Stewart, Georgia, and did remain so absent in desertion until on or about 4 February 2009," the statement said.
Recently, Cornell told the Courier he went AWOL because he was afraid to go to war and did not want to kill innocent people, which he said he was requested by his chain of command to do.
"My commander told me that if anyone came within so many feet of my vehicle I was to shoot and kill them," Cornell said. "I do not believe in killing innocent people."
Larson refuted Cornell's accusations.
"The Army does not target innocent civilians and does not take innocent life," Larson said. "Soldiers are trained to follow the law of armed conflict which clearly states you must differentiate between combatants and non-combatants. Any allegations that soldiers are purposely trained to harm civilians are grossly inaccurate. "
Cornell enlisted in the Army in 2002 but never deployed.
He has also said he had been duped by his recruiter at the time of enlistment. He said he was told he would never have to go to war.
There is no word where Cornell is now. After he turned himself in at Fort Stewart, he was reportedly put back on active status.
Attempts to contact Cornell's lawyer, James Branum, for comment were not successful.
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