US Airman Steps Forward After 28 Years AWOL
Deserter David Hemler has been in Sweden since 1984
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 18, 2012 1:57 AM CDT
Updated Jun 18, 2012 4:14 AM CDT
David Hemler is seen in this 1984 photo posted on the Air Force's fugitives page.   (US military)

(Newser) – A US Air Force deserter is "back from the dead" after being AWOL since 1984. David Hemler says he walked off a base in Germany 28 years ago and hitchhiked to Sweden, where he only planned to stay a week but ended up building a new life under an alias, Reuters reports. Hemler, now 49, says he deserted at the age of 21 after getting involved with a pacifist church and becoming disillusioned with Ronald Reagan's policies. He is married to a Swedish citizen and has three children. His family in Pennsylvania had assumed he was dead until they heard from him a few weeks ago.

Hemler says he decided to finally come forward after his youngest daughter turned two—old enough for his wife to put her in day care if he was arrested. A spokeswoman for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations says Hemler contacted the agency about 10 days ago. "We really want to catch this guy," she tells the New York Times. It's not clear what punishment Hemler will face for deserting—or whether the Swedes will be willing to hand him over. "My dream scenario is that the responsible authorities realize I have already been punished quite severely for my actions," he says. "I have been living 28 years in lies."

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