Allen Cassatt, a former Army staff sergeant who was court-martialed for bringing Soviet-made rifles home from Grenada as souvenirs, said tonight that he hopes the military will forgive him as it has Vice Adm. Joseph Metcalf III.
"If he's forgiven, why aren't I?" said Cassatt, who spent four months in military prison and says the ordeal upset his family so much that his son, 12, once attempted suicide.
Cassatt is one of at least seven lower-ranking U.S. Army and Marine soldiers jailed for possession of the unauthorized souvenirs.
Defense Department sources said Thursday that Metcalf, who led the October 1983 invasion of Grenada, returned with more than a dozen of the Soviet-made weapons and was "cautioned" but not punished after the guns were seized in a customs inspection. Metcalf later was promoted to deputy chief of naval operations.
The Army said Friday that the courts-martial of the lower-ranking soldiers are being reviewed.
Cassatt, whose plight was first reported by ABC-TV yesterday, said in an interview that as a flight platoon sergeant he spent two weeks in Grenada, mostly monitoring maintenance of helicopters operating from an airfield on the island. He said two Soviet AK47 rifles were given to him as souvenirs by a pilot.
"I myself never brought anything back," he said. "I never knew about the guns until I got back to the United States . . . He the pilot told my wife there was a surprise in my trunk."
Cassatt, 33, said he spent 14 years in the military -- four in the Marines and nearly 10 in the Army. He was court-martialed in mid-September last year and sentenced to nine months at hard labor in Fort Riley, Kan. He also was fined $300 a month and reduced in rank. Cassatt spent four months at Fort Riley and was released.
"The Army did what it felt was right," said Maj. Nancy Kaidan, an Army spokesman. "We really have no further comment."
A native of Detroit, Cassatt resettled in Broadway, N.C., a small community about 30 miles north of Fort Bragg. Cassatt, his wife and three sons are living in a mobile home while he works in a mill producing and packaging cattle feed.
"I've got 55 resumes out trying to get a job in aviation," he said.
The Pentagon has announced that it intends to reexamine the penalties imposed on the seven court-martialed soldiers.
Cassatt said he turned himself in under an Army amnesty program. He said this showed that he had no intent of wrongdoing.
Cassatt said he had spent 13 months in Vietnam and had expected that the Grenada invasion would be his last combat. He said he had no intention of reselling the weapons. "They were merely souvenirs."
"If they can forgive this Metcalf fellow, why can't they forgive me?" Cassatt asked. "I'm not out for vengeance. I would like some restitution. I don't have any hatred for the military."
However, Cassatt said he did not intend to seek readmittance to active Army duty, but would like to join the reserves. Cassatt said that if hostilities broke out he would willingly rejoin the military and take part in combat.
"I would like to finish my 20 years," Cassatt said, referring to the period required to gain a full pension. "That's a goal in my life."
But, he added, "They have taken away my faith and my trust . . . I don't know if I could ever trust anybody again."
Cassatt said that his court-martial and imprisonment "made me ashamed of myself" and that the pressure on his family was the "worst part of the whole ordeal."
While he was serving time at Fort Riley, Cassatt said, his oldest son seemed to feel responsible.
"He tried to hang himself in the tree house in the back yard," Cassatt said, adding that his wife intervened before the boy was harmed.
Cassatt said that his children were teased at school, but that neighbors in the Broadway community were supportive and supplied his family with food during his imprisonment. He said he decided to live in the community because of the neighbors' friendliness.
Cassatt, who went to Grenada as part of the 82nd Airborne Division, said he had a clean record throughout his military career. His case is on automatic appeal.