Tens of Thousands of Soldiers Deserting Army; Military Avoids Prosecutions

The U.S. Army has prosecuted about 1,900 cases of desertion since 2001, despite tens of thousands of soldiers fleeing the service in the face of deadly combat, long and multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan and strains on military families.

The data reflects how rarely the military takes desertion cases to court. And it underscores the complexities of such cases as a top military commander reviews the investigation of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who left his Afghanistan post in 2009 and was captured and held by the Taliban for five years.

More than 20,000 soldiers have been dropped from the rolls as deserters since 2006, Army data show. Totals for earlier years weren’t available, but likely include thousands more.

In trial cases over the last 13 years, about half the soldiers pleaded guilty to deserting their post. Another 78 were tried and convicted of desertion.

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