(By Dick Foster, Originally published in the Rocky Mountain News, February 7 2007)
A Widefield soldier who became a national figure after going AWOL rather than returning to Iraq will be sentenced to prison at Fort Hood, Texas, this month.
Spc. Mark Wilkerson, 23, who visited Cindy Sheehan's camp outside President Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch in August 2006 on his way to surrendering at Fort Hood after nearly two years of being AWOL, will be sentenced Feb. 22.
As part of his plea agreement with the Army, Wilkerson will serve not more than 10 months in prison. But he also faces a possible dishonorable or bad conduct discharge and a felony conviction on his record.
Eager to follow in his father's footsteps, Wilkerson had joined the Army in 2002, a month after graduating from Widefield High School.
After a year in Iraq with a military police unit, he became disillusioned with the war. He applied for conscientious objector status but was refused by the Army, so he went AWOL from Fort Hood in December 2004 as his unit prepared to return to Iraq.
Wilkerson spent at least part of his AWOL time in Colorado Springs with his wife, from whom he is now separated.
Since returning to Fort Hood last September, he has been living in the barracks and assigned to office duties while his case was being processed.
Wilkerson hopes to return to Colorado Springs after serving his prison sentence, and eventually continue his education, possibly attending college in Austin, Texas, said his mother, Rebecca Barker.