Sgt. Kevin Benderman failed to deploy with the Third Infantry Division in January and applied for conscientious objector status ten days later. He was charged with desertion and faced court-martial today.
After hearing the evidence against him in the desertion case, the judge found him guilty of the lesser charge of intentionally missing movement.
Defense attorneys pointed to what they claim were conflicting orders the evening Benderman was to deploy. Benderman said he missed the flight January 7 because his command sergeant major told him to go home and complete his conscientious objector application over the weekend.
Benderman reported back the next work day.
The judge sentenced him to 15 months in military prison, demotion to private, and a dishonorable discharge.
"Kevin is free," said his wife, Monica Benderman. "He's driving away, he's got people telling him they've got control of him now. They don't have control of him. He's doing what he has to do and he's in control of himself. He made the choice to take this road. He's in control, they're not in control of him."
Monica says she is certain that the Army took such a tough stance against her husband because of statements the Bendermans had made in outspoken opposition to the war in Iraq.
Benderman's attorneys plan to appeal.