UPPSALA, Sweden -- An American man who went missing from a US Air Force squadron in 1984 has come out of hiding to reveal he is living in Sweden.
David Hemler, 49, left his squadron in Augsburg, Germany in 1984 as a 21-year-old pilot with the US Air Force to become a peace activist.
After deserting, he moved to Sweden under a false name, claiming to be born in Zurich, Switzerland.
Hemler is now married to a Swedish woman, speaks English with a Swedish accent and has three children who he hopes will one day meet their American grandparents in his home state of Pennsylvania.
He finally revealed his location to a Swedish newspaper after he decided to call his parents following an almost thirty year absence.
Hemler told The New York Times that he initially expected to be caught within a few weeks.
"I never planned on it being so long," he said. "Days went and weeks, and I started to realize that maybe the military police weren't coming. I just felt so good. I had a delayed teenage rebellion, you could say."
Swedish authorities assured Hemler that if he were to go public with his story he would not be extradited to the United States. However, returning to the US to see his parents and brother may be another matter.
"Once you run from the military and you desert that's something that follows you for the rest of your life," James Dillard, a spokesman for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations told The Times.
But Hemler says his greater fear was the looming confrontation with his parents. Instead, they are merely happy to hear that he is alive.
"My hope is to be able to return to see my parents in the US, " Hemler says. "They are getting old now and their grand kids needs to see their grandparents."
Linda Card, spokesperson for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, confirmed that a man identified as Hemler had contacted the agency two weeks ago, and officials were investigating his claims.
"We really want to catch this guy," Card said.