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U.S. Army Deserter Arrives In N.C. To See Mother For First Time In 40 Years

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WELDON, N.C. — A soldier who deserted his Army unit and crossed into North Korea returned to North Carolina Tuesday after 40 years.

Charles Jenkins, 65, who was convicted in a court-martial and spent 25 days in a U.S. military jail in Japan last year, arrived at Dulles International Airport near Washington midmorning Tuesday where police then whisked him and his family to a connecting flight to North Carolina to see his ailing 91-year-old mother.

At mid-afternoon, a red van with Jenkins, his wife and two children, pulled into the driveway of Jenkins' sister's home.

"It feels like Christmas," Jenkins said as he waved to reporters shouting questions about how he felt being back in North Carolina.

A few minutes later, Jenkins, with his mother at his side, came out for a photo opportunity.

"I feel very happy," Jenkins told the media. "Thank you for coming, especially all those who came from Japan."

In a departure statement, Jenkins had asked for privacy when he reunited with his mother. Japanese reporters, as well as a flood of other media, had crowded into Roanoke Rapids because of the huge interest in his story.

Jenkins' homecoming, however, is not a happy one for everyone.

"The bottom line is Mr. Jenkins is a criminal," said Navy veteran Jean Reaves. "He did desert his country. He deserted his men. He aided the enemy with information."

Anthony Clark, who was 11 years old when Jenkins left for the Army, said he condemns Jenkins for deserting, but respects his desire to see his family.

"He at least deserves the opportunity to visit his mother before her passing," Clark said.

Jenkins has not said anything about his plans, including how long he plans to stay in North Carolina.


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