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AWOL Marine out of Corps

The 23-year-old who admitted faking his death is discharged.

December 20, 2008|Tony Perry

CAMP PENDLETON — A Marine lance corporal was sentenced Friday to forfeit $1,166 in pay and be discharged after confessing that he faked his own death and ran away from the Marine Corps for two years because he was suffering "disturbing images and violent thoughts" after serving a combat tour in Iraq.`

"Those were very dark days for me," Lance Hering told a court-martial hearing officer.

Capt. William Ryan, the hearing officer, sentenced Hering, 23, to the time already served in the brig awaiting court martial.

Hours after Hering's sentencing, he was officially discharged from the Marines and handed over to authorities from Boulder, Colo.

Hering must go there to face criminal charges related to a probation violation stemming from a 2004 burglary conviction and a 2006 hoax that he and a buddy pulled in an attempt to convince the Marine Corps that Hering was dead. Hering was arrested Nov. 16 in Port Angeles, Wash., as he and his father were beginning a trip that was meant to end with Hering turning himself in to officials at Camp Pendleton.

In an emotional statement to the court, Hering's father recalled how in August 2006 the Boulder County Sheriff's Department told him his son had been injured and lost in a canyon. The report proved to be a hoax.

"Lance was injured and he was lost, but not in the ways we expected," said Lloyd Hering, his eyes filled with tears. He referred to his son as a "wayward and wounded warrior."

The Marine's attorney, James Culp, said that an evaluation by military psychologists after Hering's arrest determined that he was suffering a "severe mental defect" during his deployment to Iraq. He was evaluated at hospitals in Baghdad and Germany for a possible "acute stress disorder" but sent back to duty in Iraq, Culp said.

Hering's friend reported to Boulder police in August 2006 that Hering had been badly injured in a fall during a hiking trip and wandered off. After a massive search, Hering could not be found and the friend admitted the report was a hoax.

Hering returned from Iraq in early August 2006 and was set to return to Camp Pendleton in mid-September of that year to begin training for a possible redeployment to Iraq.

"I was going through a lot of emotional turmoil at that time," Hering told the hearing officer. "I couldn't bring myself to come back."

A summary court martial is the mildest court proceeding in the Marine Corps. Hering could have been sent to the brig for 30 days and given 45 days hard labor. Instead, Ryan sentenced him to the 33 days he had already spent in the brig. Ryan also declined to reduce him in rank. The colonel who convened the court martial against Hering recommended that he be given an other-than-honorable discharge. The decision rests with the base commander.

Addressing his son in the courtroom, the elder Hering said, "I feel closer to you emotionally than I have in many years," adding that by coming out of hiding his son had provided "the best possible Christmas present that your mom and I could ever have."

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tony.perry@latimes.com

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