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AWOL Iraq Veteran Returns to Base

On a Texas highway Thursday, a soldier who had been away without leave took a drive back toward his Army base at Ford Hood.

Army Spc. Mark Wilkerson, who served for a year in Iraq beginning in March 2003, says he was denied conscientious-objector status. Rather than return to Iraq for a second deployment, he disappeared for a year and a half. Now he's resurfaced in the company of anti-war advocates, appearing Thursday at Cindy Sheehan's protest campsite near President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Later, in an interview while making his way toward Fort Hood to turn himself in, Wilkerson says he initially thought the Iraq war was a just war.

But after returning from his first deployment, he says, "I came up with the conclusion that we were not there for the reasons stated and I am no longer able to serve the military in any aspect."

"To anyone who's listening who thinks what I did was the wrong thing, I just have to say, there comes a time in every person's life when they have to make what they feel was the right moral decision for themselves," Wilkerson says.

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Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
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