Photo by JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images
David Hemler has been living a secret life in Sweden for nearly three decades but has now come forward and told his story to a Swedish newspaper. Hemler was a 21-year-old airman in the U.S. Air Force’s 6913th Electronic Security Squadron in Augsburg, Germany when he walked off base and hitchhiked his way to Sweden. He now lives in Stockholm, where he is married, and has three children, reports Swedish news site, the Local.
“Sweden is a fantastic country for people like myself. Many people think it’s been horrible for me to carry this secret for such a long time, but I have mostly missed my parents,” he told Dagens Nyhter newspaper, according to the Local. He didn’t allow the newspaper to print the name he has been using in Sweden.
The U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations lists Hemler, a Pennsylvania native, as one of eight “air force fugitives.”
Hemler decided to break his silence because he missed his family, first contacting them in the United States four weeks ago, writes Reuters. Although Hemler says he “expected and deserved a scolding” from his family “nobody has reacted that way.”
Hemler claims to have grown disillusioned with U.S. foreign policy under President Ronald Reagan, and decided to abandon the Air Force after his request for a discharge was denied, reports UPI. Although he says he misses the United States, he still isn’t happy with U.S. foreign policy: “Why do politics look like they do today when it was the U.S. that armed the Taliban and the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein?”