Army Vet Jailed in Miami, Forced to Withdraw from College Thanks to Paperwork Screw Up

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Louie Castro was officially discharged form the Army more than nine years ago, so it was a bit of surprise when he ended up being arrested at Miami International Airport and put in jail for two weeks on charges that he was AWOL. The charges were the result of a paperwork mess-up on the Army's part, but the drama forced Castro to miss what would have been his last semester before graduating from FSU.

According to Stars and Stripes, the official but editorially independent newspaper of the Armed Forces, Castro joined the army back in February of 2001 when he was only 17. He did in fact go AWOL back in July 2001. He cited the fact he didn't feel he was a good fit for the Army, the fact his mother was struggling financially, and the fact that his heroin-addicted father had been hospitalized.

He was eventually caught during a routine traffic stop, returned to his infantry division and continued to serve until his request for a discharge was granted. He received an "other-than-honorable discharge."

Castro thought he was done with the Army, but he never officially received his Form DD-214 despite being told that all the paperwork had been completed.

Since his dark days with the Army, Castro had turned his life around. He was pursuing a degree at FSU, and his employer told Stars and Stripes he was his best employee.

In December, Castro flew to Europe to visit his girlfriend, an American who teaches English in France. When he returned on January 2 to Miami International Airport, however, he was held on charges that he had gone AWOL.

"I spent three nights in jail in Miami," Castro told the paper, "with people who had felonies, things like aggravated assault."

He spent time in two more Florida jails, and even spent a few days in solitary confinement.

Castro was eventually released and told he must return to Fort Carson, Colorado, where he would be expected to return to life as an Army private long enough for the paperwork to be finished. The drama made Castro miss his first week of classes at FSU, and he eventually had to withdraw for the semester. If only the Army had given him the official paperwork nine years ago, the entire fiasco could have been averted.

The issue still hasn't been ironed out, but Castro is considering legal action.

"There were times when I was really stressing out. In jail I spent nights in tears ... [but] I try to take things easy," Castro told the paper. "If I knew I did something wrong it would be one thing, but I knew deep down that I didn't do anything. I already knew that I paid for the mistake that I made when I was a kid. It was like I already made amends for it."

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3 comments
Tom Stedham
Tom Stedham

Could the writer please change the headline??? He's not an "Army vet"; he's some guy who couldn't hack boot camp and ran away...Say "Army Dropout" or something. At least that's accurate. Implying that this quitter is a "vet" is very insulting to those who ARE vets, meaning "veteran", meaning someone who served this nation with pride and honor.

Tom Stedham
Tom Stedham

Glenn,

That's how things were done at Ft Knox, about 10 years ago. Soldiers being kicked out for AWOL were put in "terminal leave status", and their DD-214s were mailed to them. They were in barracks at Ft Knox for a short period; just to get the paperwork started, make sure no charges were outstanding, go over their rights and discharges, etc. They had an ID card, etc. I was stationed there; and I took these "soldiers" on work details for the week or two they were there.

Nowadays, it's faster and you don't go home without DD-214s in hand. But, this is probably a true story. He probably didn't get his discharge papers, and his name slipped thru the system. This is just one of dozens of similar stories. This has happened repeatedly over the years.

nightryder21
nightryder21

Why didn't he contact the Army for his paperwork. I know the army is supposed to give it to him, but if you need it as proof then why not bother contacting them?

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