Marine War Objector Given 4-Month Term

From Associated Press

A Marine private was sentenced Thursday to four months in prison and given a bad conduct discharge for missing his unit’s activation last year during the Persian Gulf crisis.

Sam Lwin, a 21-year-old student, also was reduced in rank from private first class to private and ordered to forfeit pay of $650 a month he received while jailed.

A native of Burma and a Buddhist, Lwin said he was not opposed to war when he joined the Marine Corps reserves in 1988. But boot camp changed his mind about the service, he said.

Lwin was the first Marine to contest desertion charges.


“It’s all right,” Lwin said about his conviction.

Lwin’s lawyers, Stephen Somerstein and Hillary Richard, said they were pleased that a desertion charge against Lwin was reduced to unauthorized absence. The lawyers said they had refuted a prosecution contention that Lwin deserted in the face of the Persian Gulf War.

Evidence showed that Lwin’s unit, Fox Company, received formal orders Nov. 24, 1990, to report to Camp Lejeune. Lwin had applied Nov. 9 for discharge as a conscientious objector. Members of the unit were not ordered to Saudi Arabia until late December, weeks after Lwin surrendered.

Eight members of Fox Company, including Lwin, refused to report for activation. Six pleaded guilty to desertion and were sentenced to prison terms ranging from eight months to 1 1/2 years. Another case has not gone to trial.

In all, 17 Marines entered guilty pleas to desertion charges at Camp Lejeune. Charges are pending against 29 others.