Harsh Memories Haunt a Missouri War Resister

Click here for this week's feature story "No Canada" about U.S. military deserters living abroad.

Joshua Randall, a 21-year-old Branson native, calmly recounts most of his four months as a U.S. Army medic in Iraq over the phone to Riverfront Times. But there are some memories this self-described "war resister" living in Canada would prefer not to discuss.

Randall says the primary reason he walked into the Branson recruiter's office in April 2006 was that the Army would cover his college tuition. But he also wanted to serve as a medic in Afghanistan and Iraq because, at age eighteen, he viewed those conflicts as "humanitarian missions" and believed "that things were actually getting accomplished and we were fighting for freedoms."

Still, certain aspects of his training began to gnaw at him before he ever set foot in Iraq. During basic training enemies were referred to as Hajjis, a derogatory term. After four months of medical courses, he joined the 187th Infantry Battalion of the 10th Mountain Division, stationed in Fort Drum, New York. Part of his training there required him to perform life-saving procedures on anesthetized sheep with incurable cancers.

"I learned a lot from it, and they were going to die soon anyway," he says. "But morally, I didn't think it was right."

Randall spent nearly a year at Fort Drum, where he met a Canadian girl online and married her in August 2007. The following month, his unit was deployed to Iraq. "Walking up the stairs of the plane, my knees were weak," he recalls. "A half-hour into the flight, it got really quiet. It hit a lot of people: There's no turning back now."

On Randall's first day at FOB McHenry, a base between Mosul and Kirkuk, an Iraqi army soldier was brought in for treatment — Randall's first patient. The soldier had seven bullet wounds, from his knees up to his chest, and lay unconscious. Randall's job was to plug the blood flowing from the soldier's groin wound.

"The reality sunk in that I was actually at war," Randall recounts. "The glory was sucked out of it a little bit."

In the following weeks while on patrol — eight-hour trips in cramped Humvees, rolling over bleak terrain — Randall says he never visited Iraqi hospitals to provide free healthcare, as he was told he would.

Sometimes, he says, in the middle of the night, his unit would enter a village where an improvised explosive device had recently exploded. They'd round up all the males over age twelve and take them to the detainee center at FOB McHenry. "If I were in their shoes," he says, "I would have nothing but hate for the Americans."

Randall claims he was forcibly restrained from treating Iraqi civilians in need. He begins to tell a story about a young girl, but stops. "I can't do this tonight," he says, but mentions a post on his website, www.londonresisters.ca, where he has written: "It's hard to say how you will react when...your holding a 30 kg, 10 year girl bleeding to death in your arms and you don't have the knowledge to fix her."

While visiting his wife in Canada in January 2008, Randall took time to reflect. An IED blast in December had killed a good friend and left another paralyzed from the neck down. He says he had "questions upon questions," and began researching the war. "I came to the conclusion that my government had been lying to me for all these years, and I didn't know," he says.

He decided to desert and stay in London, Ontario, where he has since gained permanent residency through his Canadian wife, Colleen. He intends to apply for citizenship when he becomes eligible in January 2011.

Randall now has a construction job and has spoken to groups at the University of Western Ontario, where he plans to enroll.

To those back in Missouri who might be angry at him, he says, "Two years ago, I'd have been the first one to say, Put him up on the firewall! But having seen what really goes on there, and open to the information I have been, I'd basically say, Don't take everything that you hear and see for granted. Go and research it." Or, he suggests, "Ask a soldier what he honestly thinks."

 
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16 comments
Rodriques Perry
Rodriques Perry

True story, I'm that supervisor! This is a total waste of time and I see no point in the lies and stories. It is shameful at best for someone to leave his brothers who would die for them with no notice and then make an attempt to somehow capitalize on the stories of other peoples pain. I am a combat medic veteran, American Soldier. The little boy that we knew as Randall was none of the above, nor even an outstanding citizen/man. His words and thoughts are useless and have no place in the world. I can say that the Army and the lives of the people who he left behind are better off without him. To all my 1st Batallion 87th Infantry Soldiers hold your head high and walk with pride as we all can say that he is not nor was ever apart of anything to do with us!!

Dionwalker
Dionwalker

I was in the unit with Randall. He's nothing more than a liar trying to justify his reasons for leaving us. The thing is he would spend every waking moment on the phone with his wife. If you were looking for Randall, look in the telecom building. He was al love sick and incompetent medic who tended to freeze up every time we really needed him. He froze up on every patient that xander to our Aid Station and was taken off all duties that would have him rendering direct care. We made him the recorder, which meant that his job would be to stand in a corner and record the times that we gave medications and did specific interventions. He was never on a mission where a little girl died in his arms. There would have been a report somewhere (submitted by him). Maybe he was not really good the surgical piece...wait, I remember when he froze up on me during a mortar attack. The victims had only minor shrapnel wounds. We ran out to them, they were already moved to cover and we started treating. RANDALL didn't even know where to find the stuff in his Aid Bag. The U.S. Army is better for not having him. He was nothing but a love sick puppy hat turned his back on his duty and country for a girl. While at Drum, he even got himself and his supervisor in trouble when he was told to not travel to Canada to visit his then girlfriend ecause there was a blizzard coming...he went anyway and was stranded in Canada on Sunday night. Which caused his supervisor to have to drive through the blizzard to get to Randall so that he wouldn't get into trouble (AWOL) on Monday morning. Word got back, and his supervisor took the entire blow of that event, leaving Randall un punished. That should have been a sign.

Medic 1-87
Medic 1-87

I'm a medic with 1-87, and I served in the same unit, hell the same company as Randall. At NO time did he ever leave the wire, or go on patrols. He was never in the situation to give locals care,unless they were detainees.The little girl he speaks of was indeed wounded, however Randall was NOT the medic on scene,nor did he ever see this little girl. He is telling experiences that other line medics, such as myself, have experienced,plain and simple. He is a LIAR,a COWARD,and a DESERTER! I've just returned from my second deployment and have had many hardships back at home while deployed.Never in my mind did i think of leaving my guys at any point, let alone desert them. I've been shot at and blown up and still my loyalty lies with my men,and taking care of them,and any other wounded i came across. You may have had your reasons for wanting to get out, you should have gotten out the correct way, and you knew their were options! And to sit here and lie about it, and tell war stories, you have no right too, is the most hurtful and disgusting thing i can think of. I've lost good friends in Iraq and Afghanistan,and your spitting on their graves right now.

Officer
Officer

@tb

You mean the same snot nosed little kids that fought and liberated Europe (twice) during the 20th Century? Do you really think that the lack of mental maturity is any excuse to commit a crime? I won't even begin to entertain your thesis on recruiting. It's full of half truths and not worth the argument. Clearly, you don't read (I can tell by your obvious lack of vernacular and horrid ability to spell) because if you did, you would see that the suicide rate in the military, specifically the Army, mirrors that of society as a whole. Suicide isn't a military problem, it's an American problem, hell-bent on alleviating all responsibility of the average citizen and placing it onto other average citizens. Narcissim, what you exude throughout your rant, is the problem. Ideas like, "you're too important" or "they didn't tell me the truth" is an example of an inability to properly mature and mesh with a society that is flying by, and subsequently doesn't care if you succeed or fail. "If you believe that these kids are old enough to make decisions..." You mean, like voting? I'll let you figure out what I mean by that. BLUF, outlandish statements like the one's you purport as being fact show that your ability to comprehend reality is just as grossly misunderstood and puts you in fine company with Randall.

@Randall, AWOL/Deserters always come back. Much like Charles Robert Jenkins whom defected to North Korea in 1965 and returned in 2004, we'll either see you in a few months or in 20 years.

SPC. Henry
SPC. Henry

I was Randall's roommate most of the time from the time he got to 187 and up until the time he went AWOL. Most of these "memories" are false. About the only true thing he said was about the goat lab. This kid is a punk and the only reason he left was cause he was a s.. bag from the beginning, and that he finally got laid from a Canadian and fell in love and couldn't stand being a loser in his company. Those stories he was telling was stuff that happened after he fled to Canada. And i personally think if he come back to the U.S. he should spend some real time with the real people who have P.T.S.D. in Leavenworth. Then he might have some "REAL" stories to tell. And the guys that got hit with the I.E.D. he didnt even know those "REAL MEN". I personally got to treat a local national infant that was sick and was never told not too. No local national was ever denied medical treatment, and i remember plenty of times, with Alpha Company 1-87, going to villages and checking on medical treatment facilities that were local nationals only. I am a real medic not that punk coward (who needs to be burned at the stake like his colt following wife)!

CD
CD

I was forwarded this article by a friend who is a REAL combat medic. I am Canadian and I am attached to a US Army unit. I am embarrased that my government would allow this oxygen theif to reside in my country. I am on my second tour and volunteered knowing full well what was involved. If this guys joined the Army during a time of war and expected not to deploy, then I think he his extremely naiive. He is not a resister - he is a deserter and should be dealt with to the full extent that the law provides. Period. Full stop.

Wheelz McGoo
Wheelz McGoo

As the soldier who was wounded in the IED blast in December (I'm only paralyzed from the chest down), I can honestly say, this disappoints me! I've served nearly 8 years in the Army (I just re-enlisted), I was on my 3rd deployment (having been once with the 101st ABN and twice with 10th MTN) and this story is full of holes. I guarantee he was never told NOT to treat someone in need - it wouldn't have happened. Medics do everything in their power to save a person life, regardless of who it is. I'm not saying being in Iraq/Afghanistan is all peaches and cream - but no one lied to Randall about what he would see over there. None of us love the fact that we are over there, but everyone of us who has sworn the oath of enlistment knows what's going to happen and what risks we take. Most of my friends have gone back over, and it pains me everyday, that I'm not there with them. While I was recovering in the hospital, I was focused more rushing my recovery,getting out and getting back over in the mix of things with them. He wants to consider me a friend, but since he deserted, I can no longer support him in his endeavors.

Huck Finn
Huck Finn

As a combat medic who has been deployed, most of his story is completely bogus. If you want to be a humanitarian you don't join the Army. There is no way he would be holding a 10 year old little girl who is bleeding to death, they do have hospitals over there and thats where she would go. After getting rocketed and having to treat wounded american soldiers, and seeing the way the local people react to american soldiers, I wouldn't want to help at a local hospital while deployed, you are the one more likely to die. Recruiters do mislead people, but that is why you have to be smart enough to realize if something seems to good to be true, it probably is. I know plenty of people who have gotten out of the military under less than honorable circumstances, and they don't go running to press to make themselves sound like a hero who couldn't handle the all the wrongdoings. Most of them just slink away and avoid conversation about the whole thing. This guy probably got to much grief from everybody so he went on a lie binge, and sold his fake story to the highest bidder. If you want to hear from a real combat medic, look up the group on Facebook.com, there are the real heros. I am not all about killing and violence, and would prefer never having to hurt anybody, but that is what the infantry are for, and my job is to back them up and treat them to the best of my ability. I feel the army has helped me with realizing my career goals, and is going to help me with college, so I will do my time and get out honorably.

Marc Riordan
Marc Riordan

Randall was my roommate at Ft Drum. He was a discipline problem, and a poor excuse for a soldier. He only bailed because he was always getting into trouble. Randall swore an oath, more than that, as a Medic his duty was to Conserve Fighting Strength, epic fail. He IS a coward! His wife is cute, so she will find someone sooner or later that will be strong when he is needed. Josh Randall will die knowing that he is a complete failure as a human being, that makes me feel better! 1-87 Infantry, not 187, is much better without him. I am out of the Army now, on a service connected disability, but I did 2 tours in Iraq as a Medic, I never ran away. (FMR)SGT Marc Riordan, College Station, TX

SGT from HHC 187
SGT from HHC 187

I personally know Randall, and I've gotta say, things at McHenry were NOT like that... This kid went AWOL when he went home on EML, which is R&R leave, never came back, then had the balls to send emails day after day asking his fellow medics to send his crap to him.. He never went on patrols, he worked in the aid station, he wasn't a line medic, he was timid and mouthy actually, good kid over all though, he was eager to help fellow soldiers out, it bothers me though that he's making it out that every day we had gun fights, where bleeding soldiers were in and out of the aid station and that was not the case.. I have no idea what he's talking about with the whole he was denied the right to help out locals in our area.. he never left the wire! he ran to canada and then bragged about it to fellow medics, now I am no medic, I am an infantry soldier, and I knew every single medic in the company.... He wanted to go home, he had the "missin home" sickness, he couldn't handle being gone for 15 months cause he probably thought his new wife was gonna cheat on him... Now I see he's living perfectly legal in Canada? Wow, good for him, and great for them... Now we don't have to worry about him being around fighting American's spreading his weakness disease, hey randall, if you read this... I am so disappointed with you man, I thought you were better then that.. Keep going to the schools and telling them that you were in 'Nam with blood and guts everywhere, when they see your glasses and your skinny goofy build they will know that you are a wimp and a liar

Brandon
Brandon

"To those back in Missouri who might be angry at him, he says, "Two years ago, I'd have been the first one to say, Put him up on the firewall! But having seen what really goes on there, and open to the information I have been, I'd basically say, Don't take everything that you hear and see for granted. Go and research it." Or, he suggests, "Ask a soldier what he honestly thinks."

I honestly think that you are a naive coward who failed to comprehend the obligations you took on when you signed the DD Form 4 at the Military Entrance and Processing Station (MEPS). At no point were you held hostage, incommunicado, or denied an opportunity to consult with family, religious counsel, or an attorney. You CHOSE to enlist in the United States Army during a time of war.

I've been shot at by Iraqi police, had trucks blown from under me by Iranian-backed militias, rocketed by Iranian Qods Force operatives, mortared by erstwhile Sunni allies, and dealt first hand with the deaths of US, Iraqi, and other nationalities to include UN staffers. I understood my obligations despite all of that and didn't go running off to Canada with my eharmony.com love at first opportunity.

Go ahead and speak ill of your experiences and embellish it with drama; you're merely trying to justify personal cowardice and a failure to "man up" to your commitments.

B

KS
KS

This person joined up in 2006-by that point in time, it was pretty obvious that you would be sent to Iraq or Afghanistan if you joined up. In December of 2007, when this person (i cannot call him a man)deserted while on mid-tour leave, my husband was just starting his second tour in Iraq. He just got back after 15 months. He never even thought about deserting, and he joined up long before 9/11. That is the main problem I have with these deserters-they are DESERTERS-not "war resisters" or whatever fancy name they give themselves. They deserted, leaving someone else to take up the slack THEY left behind; did these people think "Hey, I'm enlisting in the military during a war-but they'll never send me!"?

tb
tb

You know its funny. Some think your in or your out. Black and white. Listen, we know that adds on tv, flyers as well as recruiters going to our high schools pumping these kids with lies about how much education youll get and all paid for, and glamorize the military, all the great things that it has to offer. Never do they talk about the human horror storys that you will witness, or participate in while there. Never. These are young teens that are making decisions about a great life altering experience and one that could take there life as well, and shouldnt be even presented to them untill there more mature. Boys are sometimes two to three years behind in mental maturity. Do you really think they would give there mentall sanity and possible life for just a education? What good is the education if your dead? This is what they think there doing, just getting an education. So our military knows that some of these kids are not, and never will be mentally prepared nor able to see or do the things they may be having thrown in there lives, and not having a choice to leave after the military has you. Not every boy and I say boy, is war material. (cant even sign rental papers for apartment yet! Nor drink! )Boys or men are not cookie cut replicas of each other. There morality comes into play as well on what they feel they can do by there own hands and what they cant. I blame the military for lieing to young boys to get them into signing up, and THEN telling them the truth or them finding out when its to late. Military is to blame. Ive seen them work there sales tactics and so have lots of other people. There worse than used car salesman. Dont recruit children. These boys are sometimes just getting there beards or there chest hair which hasnt even grown in all the way yet. So the poster needs to get off his testosterone high hes on and understand the larger picture here and that the military recruits this way on purpose and doesnt really tell these boys what true decision there making. Its all just numbers, not humans. Military needs numbers and they will say and do anything to get them. I dont want to hear that every war we have had was worth the life or pain and suffering mentally and physically that all the vetrans have to live with now. Not all wars were for correct reasons. If you think they were then you cant face truth. Its goverment! Hello! What do you think,... they would tell you the real reason your there? Or that oops, the war was for wrong reasons? Please. You blindly go into war with the idea of, "Im going to do my part to save the usa, and it is appreciated for what you gave for all the people in our country. Im talking about government and military. They are the ones that produce this problem. I also know that there are steeply rising suicides among military that have been to war. Hmmm what is the reson for that? Possibly military not dealing correctly with what there producing and knowingly producing? If you believe that these kids are old enough to make decisions such as the ones that you make during war, your living in a brainwashed mode. They arent obviously! Some may be, but alot are not. So if a person isnt able to take a life of another and possibly innocent children and women, then hes got a problem? I would think the one thats ok with taking a childs life or a womens has a problem. They have in past wars put there enemys ears in there helmets, raped women and children to break down the family unit and will of there enemy. I have a photo of a usa soldier in world war 2 that cut off the head of his enemy holding it up for the camera proudly. Im sorry, who can mentally handle that? The boy that this article talks about thought and was told it was something different that he joined. Im sure it was all great stuff, and never was sat down and told the horrors he would do or see. That is what they need to watch in video before they join, the truth of what they are deciding on! Not lies. If they join after seeing the real truth, then that is more of a correct and air decision. Untill then it isnt.

Pat Nolan
Pat Nolan

This three tour combat vet thinks he is a coward, a disgrace to his family, his state and his nation.

Medic1-87
Medic1-87

Just to point out yet another fact. The only reasons the REAL medic did not treat the little girl, is because American males (even medics) are not allowed to touch iraqi females,and the girl was taken to a near by hospital by others.As far as the goat labs, I did all of the training, minus working on the animals,as I am opposed by it, and my chain of command and the instructors respected that, thus i did not have to do that portion of the training. I have been on many missions where we captured people, none of them were under the age of 18.

SPC. Henry
SPC. Henry

oh i forgot about the time he got smoked for leaving his shit stained underwear in Sgt. Roberts bath in the barracks, and that i had to always clean up after him so i wouldnt get into trouble for his filth. Or how about the time he ran to canada when the road cond. was black and got into an accident "supposidly" and was awol a week then. Him being a medic (not a very good one) saying his new wife broke her hip in the accident but then went home from the hospital that night, oh i got stories i can go on for days about this d. bag!!!

 
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