U.S. Army Specialist David Beals: Why I went AWOL

Robert S. Finnegan
Managing Editor, Southeast Asia News

01/18/05 "Information Clearing House" -- Georgia: Specialist David Beals of the 2-7 Infantry stationed at Ft. Stewart, Georgia has today decided to turn himself in after going AWOL from the Winn Army Hospital following his attempted suicide. Beals plans to return within 72 hours, after taking the time he said was necessary to ponder the few options available to him. 

Beals, 25, has already served a tour in Iraq. After witnessing firsthand the killing of innocent civilians by U.S. forces he has decided to apply for Conscientious Objector status. He also stated that he would accept an honorable discharge from the Army. 

Remarks made by his platoon sergeant also played a part in Beals’ decision, after being continually told by him that “You guys are gonna die, I don’t want to deal with shipping your s**t back when you are coming home in a box.” 

Beals then made a decision, telling his wife Dawn “I would rather die at home with you than go over {to Iraq} with these people and let them get me killed.” He added that he wanted to be with his family when he dies, rather than in Iraq with individuals who obviously wanted him dead. 

After having his stomach pumped and being stabilized at a civilian hospital Beals was transferred to Winn Army Hospital, and there he said his problems began. 

“After they got me to Winn and my wife walked me up to the ward, they {the doctors} pushed her out and said ‘you have to go, you can’t see him,’ it was the next night I think, before she was allowed to see me” Beals said. He also stated that Dr. Capp, a civilian doctor at Winn had told both himself and Specialist J.R. Burt of 2-7 who had also attempted suicide that they had two choices: “You {Beals and Burt} are going to leave on your own and get on the plane, or you are going to leave in shackles and get on the plane.” Beals also said Capp told him that he was malingering to get out of deploying to Iraq. 

Beals said he went AWOL from the hospital because he feared that they were going to handcuff him and deposit him directly on the plane, not understanding at that time he could refuse deployment. “The doctor made it clear to me that I could get on the plane or go to jail, those were his exact words” he said. 

Having had several days to think about his plight Beals is now sure he will not deploy, even if it means going to jail. “When I was in Iraq the first time, we were proceeding to an objective and there was a truck on the road with a family in it that was hit by an air strike. The mother and the daughter survived but the father and the son didn’t. The son was decapitated, and our first sergeant and his driver were taking pictures of them.” Beals said this incident was the catalyst that demonstrated to him the reality of this war. 

Well aware of the possible consequences he faces for refusing to deploy, Beals is firmly convinced he is doing the right thing. “I won’t compromise my beliefs for the Army, come what may” he said. 

Telephone calls to Army Public Affairs Officer Lt. Colonel Kent and Winn Army Hospital Public Affairs Officer Laurie Kemp requesting comment were unanswered at press time. 

Southeast Asia News Managing Editor Robert S. Finnegan is an internationally published investigative reporter and former Marine Corps Non-Commissioned Officer. Working recently as a Senior Editor and lead investigator on the Bali Bombings for The Jakarta Post, he may be reached at Copyright release granted for further publication at additional news outlets.

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