Warning: this article contains some graphic depictions that some may find disturbing.
BEFORE he deserted the US Marines, Dean Walcott rode shotgun on besieged convoys to Baghdad and spent a second Iraq tour setting up military communications.
Even though he was in no imminent danger of returning for a third deployment, he took a Greyhound bus to Canada.
He is one of dozens of US military deserters hoping to be granted refugee status in Canada under the rule of the United Nations Charter on Refugees.
He grew tired of trying to answer the questions of young reservists, recovering from the loss of limbs, who wanted to know what the heck the war was about.
Toronto lawyer Jeff House says he has spoken to 170 individuals hiding in Canada, and he estimates the total of deserters in the country at about 250.
Mr House says the basis of the refugee claims lie in the United Nations charter, which says there is no obligation on a soldier to participate in a war begun in violation of international law. A soldier facing punishment for refusing to fight in such a case is considered to be facing persecution.
"We have said that the US Administration violates international law, and condones violation of international law in relation to its interrogation policy," Mr House says.
Phillip McDowell [another deserter] would have gone to Afghanistan, he says, but he was not prepared to return to Iraq. "I believed everything the Government told us about weapons of mass destruction, that there were links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda," he says.
"I was aware of the international opposition to going in, but growing up I always trust my Government." He says his 12 months in Iraq until March 2005 sowed doubts. "What was the justification for the invasion if everything they said was false?" he asks. He did not intend to make a career out of the military, just to serve four years.
"Speaking to the Iraqis there, everybody said, 'Of course we didn't like Saddam, but since you guys have been here everything is worse — you have to go'," he says.
By the end of his tour he viewed the war as wrong, illegal and counterproductive. He was disturbed, too, by some of the treatment he saw meted out to detainees. He thought he was clear of the army by the middle of last year when his enlistment expired. Then the army called him back after a change of regulations. He and his partner, Jamine, took the Canada option in October last year, with his family's support. The couple have resettled in Toronto and are seeking refugee status.