FORT CARSON, Colo. — When asked by a military judge how long she planned on extending her two-week leave from a 2007 tour of duty in Iraq, Pfc. Kimberly Rivera responded “as long as I possibly could, sir. … I intended to quit my job permanently.”
For her willful efforts to become the first woman to desert the war in Iraq, Rivera was sentenced to 10 months in military prison and a bad-conduct discharge this week, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. Rivera crossed the border into Canada at the end of a two-week leave after being ordered to serve another tour of duty.
Rivera said she became a conscientious objector due to what she saw during her first tour, when she served as a front gate guard at Forward Operating Base Loyalty in Baghdad. She wrote about her experiences in a blog, which eventually alerted military personnel to her unauthorized presence aboard.
In one post, she described seeing “wounded, injured and killed civilians on a daily basis,” and said that the sights were considered “normal,” according to court testimony. However, prosecutors insisted that “nothing like that had been seen at the front gate.”
In court, Rivera said she failed to return from her two-week leave, which had been granted so that she could work out marital issues, because her husband threatened to take their children. Rivera has four kids and is pregnant with a fifth, which is due in December.
Facing deportation from Canada, Rivera applied for refugee status. She was denied to the dismay of 19,000 people who signed an online petition in protest. Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu was among those who protested the deportation, saying Rivera “came to the conclusion that the U.S. invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction … and only created immense misery for civilians and soldiers alike.”
In court, Rivera’s defense lawyer James Branum argued that she would have filed for conscientious objector status, but did not know the option was available. Branum said Rivera should have been advised of that option after meeting with a military chaplain in Iraq in 2006, at which point she explained she did not believe she could take a life if required to do so.
Before she could be deported, Rivera turned herself in at the U.S.-Canadian border, and returned to active duty at Fort Carson in September 2012.