US soldier accused of killing Afghan civilians was on his fourth combat tour against his wishes
Afghans continued to grieve, and continued to fume, as a new day dawned on Sunday, exactly one week after a U.S. soldier -- described by some who knew him as "happy" and a "nice guy" -- allegedly went house to house, shooting dead 16 villagers.
He joined the Army two months after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and was assigned in September 2002 to Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington, according to a brief summary released Saturday by the Army. It listed multiple decorations for Bales, including three Army "good conduct" medals.
He deployed to Iraq right after the 2003 invasion and then again in 2006, when he served 15 straight months as part of then-President Bush's so-called surge of 20,000 additional troops.
According to one of Bales' attorneys John Henry Browne, the soldier was wounded that tour and had to have part of his foot amputated.
An Army account recalled a 2007 incident in Iraq, when an operation to recover a helicopter that had been shot down near Najaf turned into more of a humanitarian one to help wounded civilians.
Bales, who was serving then as a team leader, said he was "proud" and his unit "discriminated between the bad guys and the noncombatants and then afterward we ended up helping the people that three or four hours before were trying to kill us."
"I think that's the real difference between being an American as opposed to being a bad guy, someone who puts his family in harm's way like that," he said in the account, posted online in February 2009.
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Bales and his family "were not happy" that he'd been deployed to Afghanistan on what ultimately became his fourth combat tour, his lawyer said, citing conversations with the soldier's family.
"He was told that he was not going to be redeployed," Browne said. "The family was counting on him not being redeployed.