A “soldier” returns home

Father David Epps's picture

The Associated Press reported recently that Clifford Cornell has returned from Canada. Cornell, a soldier in the United States Army, fled to Canada in 2005 as his unit was preparing to deploy to Iraq. It is likely that Cornell would still be in Canada except for the fact that Canada was apparently about to deport him. Cornell faces possible charges of “desertion” and imprisonment for his actions.

Cornell, 29, has stated that he left for Canada because he “doesn’t think the war has improved the lives of Iraqis, and he couldn’t stomach the though of killing.” A soldier for three years before he ran, Cornell said “I didn’t join the military to kill innocents.” Or perhaps the soldier just didn’t want to face danger and death.

Certainly Cornell wants people to believe he is a tough guy. The AP reported that Cornell has a dragon tattoo on his forearm and skulls on both biceps. But, when interviewed, Cornell broke down, dissolved into tears, and said, “I’m just not a fighter ... I have a really soft heart.”

Yet, from 2002 until 2005, Cornell wore the uniform, accepted the pride that goes with being a soldier, and took the pay. In the end, he left his buddies, who depended on him, to face the danger without him while he fled north. Some would not call that honorable. Some would call that cowardice.

According to the Columbia Encyclopedia, “desertion,” in law, is “the forsaking of a station involving public or social duties without justification and with the intention of not returning. In military law, it is the abandonment of (or failure to arrive at) a place of duty without leave; in time of war, especially in the face of the enemy, desertion is punishable by death.” At the present time, there are some 200 deserters hiding out in Canada, according to the War Resisters Support Campaign.

Imagine a police officer saying, “I didn’t become a cop to give tickets and arrest bad guys. I just want to wear a badge and a gun.” Imagine a firefighter proclaiming, “I didn’t join the fire department to go into burning buildings and save lives. I just want to ride around in a big red truck.” Imagine a priest or pastor who states, “I didn’t become a minister to deal with people. I just want to preach, pray, and wear nice suits or cool vestments.” Imagine, now, if you can, a soldier who refuses to obey his oath of enlistment, deserts his post for nearly four years, and then tries to justify himself.

No civilized person wants war or desires to fight, but there are millions who have faced their fear and served honorably in the nation’s military.

There are also those brave and courageous souls who were, during those days when men were drafted into the military, genuine pacifists who accepted their service and served as medics, chaplain’s assistants, and in other non-combat roles.

Some, who refused to bear arms but did their duty, are on the rolls of those who have received the Medal of Honor. They didn’t run. They didn’t hide. They served with honor and distinction. These — and not those who fled and try to excuse themselves — are the heroes.

For those who want to come home, there’s a cell waiting at Fort Leavenworth. Canada can keep the others.

[David Epps is the founding pastor of Christ the King Church, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277, between Peachtree City and Newnan. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. He also serves as a bishop to the Diocese of the Mid-South. Bishop Epps is also the mission pastor of Christ the King Church in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.]

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sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Fri, 02/20/2009 - 4:50pm.

As long as there have been wars, there will be deserters...particularly in unpopular wars.

Epps chose to highlight Cliff Cornell, who appears to be a particularly bad apple. Cornell chose to be a soldier right up until his unit was deployed, when he chose to desert. That sort of cowardice merits the firing squad.

Interestingly, our so-called "greatest generation" had 21,000 convictions for desertion in World War 2. 19,000 soldiers deserted to France, becoming the so-called "Lost Division". Mon Dieu!

Military Justice trivia: Did you know that if you are executed by the military or die in military prison following a felony conviction that Uncle Sam will still bury you in a military cemetery? They have a special section cordoned off, and you will have a special grave marker that is black and contains only your service (SSN) number. The American WWII cemetery in France has 90+ graves in this special section, primarily military murderers and rapists.

Finally, I'd be remiss in not pointing out that George W. Bush deserted his Air Force reserve unit in Alabama during Vietnam

S. Lindsey's picture
Submitted by S. Lindsey on Fri, 02/20/2009 - 6:00pm.

"Finally, I'd be remiss in not pointing out that George W. Bush deserted his Air Force reserve unit in Alabama during Vietnam"

Snif read the truth.. stop reading from your little book of lies..

The Real Military Record of George W. Bush: Not Heroic, but Not AWOL, Either By Peter Keating and Karthik Thyagarajan
For more than a year, controversy about George W. Bush’s Air National Guard record has bubbled through the press. Interest in the topic has spiked in recent days, as at least two websites have launched stories essentially calling Bush AWOL in 1972 and 1973. For example, in "Finally, the Truth about Bush’s Military Record" on TomPaine.com, Marty Heldt writes, "Bush’s long absence from the records comes to an end one week after he failed to comply with an order to attend ’Annual Active Duty Training’ starting at the end of May 1973... Nothing indicates in the records that he ever made up the time he missed." And in “Bush’s Military Record Reveals Grounding and Absence for Two Full Years" on Democrats.com, Robert A. Rogers states: "Bush never actually reported in person for the last two years of his service - in direct violation of two separate written orders." September 27, 2003 Page 33 of 45

Neither is correct.
It’s time to set the record straight. The following analysis, which relies on National Guard documents, extensive interviews with military officials and previously unpublished evidence of Bush’s whereabouts in the summer and fall of 1972, is the first full chronology of Bush’s military record. Its basic conclusions: Bush may have received favorable treatment to get into the Guard, served irregularly after the spring of 1972 and got an expedited discharge, but he did accumulate the days of service required of him for his ultimate honorable discharge.
On May 1, Bush was ordered to report for further active duty training, and documents show that he proceeded to cram in another 10 sessions over the next two months. Ultimately, he racked up 19 active duty points of service and 16 inactive duty points by July 30-which, added to his 15 gratuitous points, achieved the requisite total of 50 for the year ending in May 1974.
On October 1, 1973, First Lieutenant George W. Bush received an early honorable discharge so that he could attend Harvard Business School. He was credited with five years, four months and five days of service toward his six-year service obligation.

Submitted by MYTMITE on Fri, 02/20/2009 - 3:58pm.

marine and not a man of the cloth when you wrote the article. What was your purpose in writing it? It isn't like someone on here asked your opinion and you were responding. In fact, you didn't even have the correct name.

Regardles of my feelings about this man's defection, I don't think you can compare his "not wanting to kill innocent people" to a fireman going into a house to save lives or a policeman preventing a robbery---hopefully, unless the robber pulled a gun on the victim or the policeman he would have no reason to shoot anyone. Poor comparisons.

This young man should have considered all the consequences when he joined the service, that is true. Who knows what was really in his head and heart when the time came to go into battle. Maybe he is a coward, maybe in his heart he is a conscientious objector, maybe he was scared. Only he really knows.

What I am having a hard time with is the fact that you as a man of the cloth would be so unforgiving, so unbending---seems like maybe you should have stayed on active duty with the Marine Corps. and let the pastoring to others more flexible. And believe me, I have nothing but love and respect and a long family history re: the Marine Corps. I hope a family member of yours never needs understanding from someone as unbending as you appear.

Submitted by ptcmom678 on Fri, 02/20/2009 - 8:29am.

Even if you think such a thing, as a "representative" of Christians, shame on you for such an un-Christian entry!! Say it in your own home, not in public. What in the world happened to charity and turning the other cheek?

Before any military or ex-military jump on me - I have the utmost sympathies for our troops overseas, and am involved in several projects to help them. I am not judging what the guy did, it's just that like others, I feel like this just does not need to be stated in a public forum. Doesn't it go something like let s/he who is without sin cast the first stone?

PinchedNerve's picture
Submitted by PinchedNerve on Thu, 02/19/2009 - 6:32pm.

Is desertion still punishable by death?

I'm ok with it if it is. However, it does seem a little harsh in comparison to some of the things that aren't.

"I shacked up with a man before I was married. His name was Jesus." -Scrubs

Submitted by lifeinptc on Thu, 02/19/2009 - 4:07pm.

One of the best I've seen here. He accepted the training, he accepted the pay, then ran to another country (a cowardly country at that) and abandoned the rest of us after taking our money.

If he had been confronted by an armed robber, while cashing one of those paychecks, would he expect a cop to turn and run if he walked up on the assault. After all the cop could give the argument that he didn't sign up to kill someone who was innocent until proven guilty.

America wasn't built by people like this guy and won't survive, with the threats we face today, with soldiers like this jello legs wannabe. Run to Antartica and don't stop. Don't go away mad, just go away.

mapleleaf's picture
Submitted by mapleleaf on Thu, 02/19/2009 - 5:08pm.

What’s happened to this man is pretty much none of our business. He obviously has emotional or mental issues, and he will have his own legal issues to face.

I don’t know what you tried to accomplish through this column. What would Jesus have said about this man? Most likely not what you said.

Here is what Jesus said:

If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6: 14-15.

Why don’t you try to be more forgiving? (Or at least mind your own business.)

S. Lindsey's picture
Submitted by S. Lindsey on Thu, 02/19/2009 - 5:23pm.

I guess using your logic every Rape, Murder and other crimes can be excused.. by saying.. Well he was emotionally upset over something.. come on he needs a break.. Maple get real.. It is not our Job to forgive.. Jesus can forgive.. we don't have to..
I don't think when Jesus ran the merchants out of the his father's house with a whip he was in a forgiving mood..

diva's picture
Submitted by diva on Thu, 02/19/2009 - 5:58pm.

I thought that the Father on Father Epps' title meant he works for Jesus, and is committed to spreading messages in line with God's teaching and purpose. This doesn't seem to fit, IMHO, as Maple points out. Someone has to be the prison executioner as well, but that person usually is not of the collar; know what I'm saying?

hutch866's picture
Submitted by hutch866 on Thu, 02/19/2009 - 6:11pm.

As they say, once a Marine, always a Marine. Archie Bunker once said if you let the young people decide if they want to fight you'd never get a decent war off the ground. IMHO, if you sign on the line, you don't get to pick your war, and if you decide to run, then don't cry when the consequences catch up to you.

I yam what I yam....Popeye

diva's picture
Submitted by diva on Thu, 02/19/2009 - 10:15pm.

"As they say, once a Marine, always a Marine."



Submitted by Nitpickers on Thu, 02/19/2009 - 8:03pm.

I don't think Mr. Epps got shot at or shot anyone in his life--even as a marine.
He was lucky.

He obviously didn't even know or know about this man since he used the wrong name, so I'm not sure if he is judging the man or the incident.

Sometimes it is better if some do not go to the battlefield if they are going to be ineffective and cause the death of others.

Teamwork there is a must. I learned that in my hitch when in training to use a fire-hose--if one guy lets loose the rest suffer the brass nozzle pounding their bodies!
Pounding on people's patriotism for constantly fighting wars--especially those young kids who are ignorant anyway, is not for me.

I really don't think a minister needs to leap on this guy who is trying to redress his problems.

Even the Pope used to lead armies into battle, and many dictators had very loyal religious ministers as advisors who agreed with everything.
Old Testament stuff--outdated by the new covenant maybe.

Submitted by AtHomeGym on Thu, 02/19/2009 - 10:18pm.

For Mapleleaf: I don't think Epps had any intention to sway your belief one way or the other. Try this on for size: If Cornell told you "I've got your back." would you really feel secure? From a Vet with 2 1/2 yrs in Vietnam.

Submitted by lifeinptc on Thu, 02/19/2009 - 5:15pm.

right now I think the military he deserted is on the eye for an eye page.

sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Thu, 02/19/2009 - 3:50pm.

CLIFF Cornell deserted the Army.
CHRIS Cornell deserted the rock band Audioslave.

Father David Epps's picture
Submitted by Father David Epps on Fri, 02/20/2009 - 3:36pm.

Sniff is correct. The alleged deserter's name is Clifford. There is apparently a downside to having to use tri-focals. I read "Chris" but the AP article said "Cliff." Mea culpa.

Submitted by ptcmom678 on Fri, 02/20/2009 - 8:30am.

and is so impressed that you know who's who...unlike Mom who just lets the music kind of go in one ear and out the other. No diss intended, Sniffles.

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