I don’t envy Chris Parks. If, according to him, he was never in the military (which I believe), then he got a pretty rough ride when stepping back on US soil. This week, the busiest and best free newspaper about went with The Accidental AWOL, a story on Chris Parks.

Chris Parks by Kelly O. in the Stranger

Chris Parks by Kelly O. in the Stranger

The interesting thing about Parks’ story is his processing through multiple legal stages and sites. He was held by other state agencies until he could be accommodated at Fort Knox military base and was then just dumped into the daily military procedures that keep recruits actively docile. And he’s in that until the military realise they’ve lost much of the pertinent information to the case.

In italics below I have quoted author Jonah Spangenthal-Lee directly, but added my own subheaders.

Charlotte Douglas International Airport, NC (Time Detained: “Several Hours”)

Parks had been heading back to Seattle after a trip through Central America with a group of friends. As he passed through customs at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina, agents from the Department of Homeland Security, pulled Parks out of line, handcuffed him, and detained him for several hours before taking him to the Mecklenburg County Jail without a word as to why.

Mecklenburg County Jail (One Week)

Parks spent a week in the county jail. After two days, he found out why: At customs, a computerized database had flagged Parks as an AWOL U.S. Army soldier who’d been missing since 2002. Because of his “fugitive” status, he would eventually be transferred to the personnel control facility at Fort Knox. The problem: Parks says he was never in the army.

“Years ago, I signed up to enlist in the army,” Parks said. “Before I actually flew out to basic training, I talked to my recruiter and explained to him I didn’t want to go.” He was just out of Freeman High School in Rockford, Washington—a suburb of Spokane—at the time and had been drawn in by the offer of a $10,000 signing bonus. But ultimately, he says, “All I wanted to do was just snowboard and screw around and be a kid for a while.”

Fort Knox’s personnel control facility (Two Weeks)

Parks was sent to Fort Knox’s personnel control facility, where his head was shaved and he was issued fatigues and a blanket, given a bunk, and instructed not to talk to any of the women in the facility or other soldiers on the base. “I basically had to play army,” Parks says. “You have to fall in and stand in line. I had no idea what the hell I was doing.”

After a total of three weeks, Parks was released with little explanation. And after three weeks of procedural but unjust detention due to bureaucratic failings, the military are still going to send Parks the bill for his flightfrom Charlotte to Fort Knox! And his head was shaved …