Wired’s Danger Room blog tells the story of Alan Gourgue, an honorably discharged Marine who was arrested and spent a month in custody as a deserter in a case of mistaken identity.
On Jan. 26, 2011, a pair of U.S. Marines put Alan Gourgue in handcuffs and a restraint belt and hauled him across the country to face trial as a deserter. Gourgue was distraught and completely confused; he had been honorably discharged in 2006 and finished his reserve obligation four months earlier.
Gourgue’s ordeal provides a glimpse into a rarely seen, slow-moving, stiflingly bureaucratic world of military desertions, where one administrative mistake can result in a catch-22 that Joseph Heller couldn’t have invented.
On Feb. 23, 2011 — a month and a day from Gourgue’s initial arrest — Marine staff told him that his detention was based on an administrative error and they had no evidence against him. Gourgue was released the next morning with an apology from a lieutenant colonel and a plane ticket back to Louisiana.