David Helmer, U.S. Deserter, Found After 28 Years AWOL From Air Force

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David Hemler, a U.S. Air Force deserter who has lived secretly in Sweden since 1984, has revealed his identity and contacted his family in America.

They had no idea he was alive.

The Swedish newspaper that broke the story said that David Hemler deserted the military at age 21 while serving at a U.S. Air Force base in Germany.

He made the decision to flee after getting involved with a pacifist church and becoming disillusioned with the policies of then-President Ronald Reagan.

He hitchhiked via Denmark to Sweden where he settled down, living under an alias for the last 28 years and not revealing his true identity to anyone.

"I never planned on not telling the truth in the beginning. I intended to come to Sweden until I felt better ... I expected a week or so," Hemler said.

Now 49, he is married to a woman from Thailand, has three children and works for a Swedish government agency, but would not reveal his alias.

After his desertion, he became one of the U.S. Air Force's eight most wanted fugitives, with military police, Interpol and Europol all looking for him.

Hemler told the newspaper he had missed his parents after he deserted but went on to have a child and had not wanted to be separated from her.

He had decided to come forward after his third daughter turned two and could go to day care, so his wife could better able to cope if he was arrested.

David said he first contacted his U.S. family four weeks ago, speaking to his brother Thomas who was in Massachusetts at the time on a business trip.

"I heard immediately it was David, even if he had a strange European accent after all these years," Thomas Hemler, who lives in New Jersey, said.

He said he had asked questions to confirm the man was indeed his brother David. Members of his family are now planning to visit him in Sweden.

The website of the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations lists Hemler, who was born in Pennsylvania, as having deserted on February 10, 1984.

He was with the 6913th Electronic Security Squadron in Augsburg, Germany.

Its Air Force Fugitives page shows a photo of David Hemler as a young man, and a photo digitally enhanced to show how he might look aged 47.

The newspaper said Hemler was registered in Sweden as a citizen of an unknown country who was born in Zurich. So what happens to him now?

"My opinion is that he will not lose his permanent residence permit in Sweden [or be extradited to the U.S.], it is very unlikely," his attorney said.

A U.S. embassy spokesman declined to comment on the case.

"My dream scenario is that the authorities realize I have already been punished severely for my actions ... I have been living 28 years in lies," Hemler said.


He remindes me of Dr. Baltar in Battlestar Galactica television series =)


Shoot him


Why does your headline read that he was "found" after 28 years? He wasn't "found" by any means- he gave himself up voluntarily. If he hadn't stepped forward, the USAF would have no clue where this guy was living. There are a lot of other stories running the same misleading headline, that he was "found" after 28 years- is this some sort of media manipulation to make the public think that those who desert will be hounded until death or capture? If this guy was able to disappear for over a quarter of a century- and be found only when he WANTED to revealed himself- one has to wonder how many others are out there who have shed the uniform for whatever reason.


Dishonor is all he deserves and to be punished for deserting from the military. Leave him alone my ass! That is the worst criminal a coward and created a new family at that.. Disgrace.


Hell leave him alone-We have a Pres that wasnt born here and nobody is doing nothing bout that n he has high security clearn


I would like to see the age enhanced photo. Also I believe that he is in a country that does not extradite. Leave him where he is and let his guilt be his punishment when family members pass on and he is not able to come back to attend a funeral!


He was with the 6913th Electronic Security Squadron in Augsburg, Germany. In order to be in this squadron, he would need a high security clearance. He had help from someone to end up where he did and stay hidden for so many years. He left during the cold war, perhaps East Germany or the former Soviet Union was helping him?


Leave Him The Fuck Alone


If he was in the top 8 wanted fugitives and all those agencies were looking for him, i dont think hes just a kid that went AWOL. Theres more to this story.


I was alive but too young to remember this. Would like to hear someone elses opinion that remembers this better.