Sgt. Matthis Chiroux refused orders to report to duty and serve in Iraq. For the next year he participated in what he called "radical" political actions and demanded that President Bush be prosecuted for his role in the war.
Last week the military gave him a "General Discharge under honorable conditions," which means he will keep virtually all of his military benefits. Chiroux was thrilled. "I'm blown away," he told us. "This is way better than anything I could have imagined."
Chiroux served for five years as a Public Affairs officer who specialized in print journalism. He spent six days in Afghanistan. He received a variety of awards and decorations, including the Army Good Conduct Medal. Here's a link to his unclassified military record. matthis chiroux military record.docx
It may have been a shocker to him, but News 4 Investigates learned that his fate is not unusual. According to an Army spokeswoman, since the 9-11 terrorist attacks nearly eight years ago, about 28,000 Army Reserves and members of the National Guard have been mobilized, fewer than 400 refused to go. Three hundred of them received Other Than Honorable Discharges, which means a significant reduction in benefits. Ninety-four got General Discharges, which means they, like Chiroux get virtually all of their benefits.
Here's a link to the breakdown of benefits veterans receive under the different types of discharges from the military. military discharge benefits.pdf
Here's a link to a chart showing the number of convictions for deserters, soldiers who go AWOL and those convicted of Missing Movement. deserter convictions.pdf
The Army provided more background on desertion and the punishment soldiers face if they abandon their troops. details about deserters.docx
The Army examines the issues behind desertion. What Do We Know About Deserters.pdf
A soldier who is convicted of desertion during a war could be executed. The Army tripled the number of convictions for desertion since 2001, but a News 4 Investigates analysis of Army statistics shows that only 2% of the 30,000 deserters captured from 2001-2007 were convicted of the crime.
The Army declined to be interviewed on-camera. However, a spokesman emphasized that all deserters are jailed immediately after they are captured. After that they receive counseling and are often returned to the military, or discharged. The Army did not provide a breakdown of the benefits granted to the deserters.