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Whit Johnson Reporting An Orem man is behind bars in Utah County for deserting the military. His family is defending him, saying the Marine Corps did not meet his medical needs, and he never should have been recruited to begin with.
Twenty-year-old Austin Lee Sommers had a rough childhood. His family believes he was pressured by a recruiter to join the Marines at a vulnerable time in his life. Then, they say, when he was mistreated, Austin made a decision that got him into a lot of trouble.
Page after page of charges make up the wrap sheet for 20-year-old Austin Lee Sommers.
Desirae Sommers, Austin's aunt, said, "It's very painful because I've seen this young man come from a very troubled teenage life."
Austin was arrested Monday night at his Orem home for deserting the military. It was the latest and by far most severe incident in Austin's short career as a U.S. Marine.
Desirae says, "He was very excited to be there and very happy to do this, but it turned out to be a very horrible, painful experience for him."
Austin was living with his aunt. She says he was constantly sick while he was away at training in San Diego. First it was pink eye, then pneumonia, bronchitis and a painful skin infection.
Major Sean Connolly, with the U.S. Marine Corps., says, "He went to recruit training in the winter, it's a little colder, it's a little wetter. Those ailments, when you put a whole bunch of human beings in a confined space like a squad bay, are going to crop up."
Austin was not satisfied with the treatment provided by the military so when he came home in July for temporary leave, he made a decision his family could not talk him out of.
"He told us he wasn't going back. No one can make him go back," Desirae said.
Austin's family believes his legal troubles should have raised a red flag for recruiters.
Desirae said, "He's just really young and really naïve, and I think that they took advantage of that."
But the Marines say Austin resolved his issues with local courts, and ultimately as an adult, he chose to join and to run away.
Major Connolly says, "He made a commitment to become a U.S Marine."
The Marines say it's possible Austin's punishment will be minor, and he may even have the opportunity to continue his military service if he wants to.
Austin also has a brother in the Marines who is currently serving in Iraq.