Eduardo Martinez deserted the military in 1999 and never looked back.
The Army's catchy slogan, "Be All You Can Be," was ringing hollow. He was an aspiring architect and signed up hoping to receive training in engineering. When he was classified as a chemical specialist, he got scared.
"I was told that's the first guy they send out to test the air for the rest of the troops -- that's the first guy they kill," Martinez said. "I'm not a fighter."
Seven years ago, as he waited with fellow recruits at O'Hare Airport for their journey to basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., he decided to run away. He told his sergeant he needed to use the restroom, and he went home to his parents.
The Army never called. Never sent a letter. Never sent the military police to look for him.
Seventeen-year-old Eduardo Martinez went on with his life. He attended Robert Morris College and earned an associate's degree. He worked part time at Menards. He studied computer-aided drafting in college but could not land a job in the field. Two years ago, he took a position with Primerica, a financial services company. He got engaged.
The Iraq war was under way, but life in Chicago was good.
Then on Oct. 18, the Army caught up with Martinez, now 25.
Chicago Police tactical officers in the Albany Park District were ordered to arrest Martinez on a federal warrant. They visited his parents' house -- where he still was living -- and hauled him off to jail. Martinez spent five days behind bars in a police lockup at 18th and State before the Army sent him a Greyhound bus ticket and ordered him to Fort Knox, Ky.
"My life was coming together, then out of nowhere, this happened," Martinez said.
Martinez left for Kentucky last Monday, not knowing if he was headed for prison. Friday, the Army let him come home. He has agreed to an "other than honorable" discharge.
Martinez was one of 2,966 U.S. Army [war resisters] in 1999, said Gini Sinclair, a Fort Knox spokeswoman.
"From the minute you take the oath, you are in the Army," she said. "You are a soldier even before you get to basic training."
Very few are prosecuted criminally. Only 176 Army [war resisters] were tried by court-martial in fiscal year 2004, said Sheldon Smith, an Army spokesman.
[War resisters] are offered the option of staying in the military or being discharged. Most take the discharge, Sinclair said.
Occasionally, the Army receives a tip about a [war resisters'] location and sends a military police officer to pick up the person -- or calls the local police to do it, Sinclair said. But most [war resisters] are nabbed when local cops stop them for something else, such as a traffic violation, and discover the federal warrant.
"It is not a major effort," Sinclair said.
She would not talk about Martinez's case, except to confirm he [left] in August 1999 and was summoned last week to Fort Knox.
Martinez was a senior at Schurz High School on the Northwest Side when he enlisted. He and fiancee Gabriella Lagunas were high-school sweethearts. They now both work in the same Primerica office.
His record consists of two minor arrests for marijuana possession, officials say.
Lagunas suspected the Army came looking for Martinez because it was short of recruits for Iraq. She was relieved to learn he will simply have a black mark on his record.
Martinez said he is still puzzled why it took the Army so long.
"Why didn't they do this seven years ago?" he said.
because it is an election year?????