TIKRIT, Iraq – An American lieutenant colonel in Iraq who faces a possible court martial for his method of interrogating an Iraqi detainee told a packed courtroom of soldiers Wednesday that he was ready to give his life for any of them.
"I love the Army. I always will be a lover of the Army and I love the fact that for 20 years, I've been a soldier and it's been an honor to serve my country," Lt. Col. Allen B. West (search) said in at the U.S. military base in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit.
The highly decorated officer with the 4th Infantry Division could receive a dishonorable discharge, the loss of 20 years of benefits and up to eight years in prison if he is convicted. A military panel is weighing whether he should face a court-martial.
West is accused of manhandling and threatening to kill an Iraqi detainee, allegedly firing his gun near the man to get information on a possible plot to kill him.
West allegedly punched and fired a pistol near a prisoner, Yahya Jhodri Hamoodi, on Aug. 20 while he was being interrogated in Taji, according to Lt. Col. Jimmy Davis, who presided over the hearing.
West also allegedly threatened to kill the detainee if he did not talk, Davis said, reading from a fact sheet.
A preliminary investigation alleged that West's actions were in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (search). West remained in Iraq after the incident and was assigned to other duties in the division, officials said.
The 4th Infantry Division has jurisdiction over areas west and north of Baghdad, including parts of the violent so-called "Sunni Triangle."
In an interview with Fox News, West's wife described him as a "dedicated soldier" who was doing what he thought was necessary to get information from the detainee.
"My husband is a patriot. He loves his country. He loves his Army," Angela West said.
Angela West said the experience of watching her husband go through the inquiry and the prospect that me might face a court martial was traumatic. One of the most hurtful aspects, she said, was the negative reaction she's gotten from others in the military community.
"We have been shunned. We're isolated," she said. "I understand that people want to make rank and they want to please their superiors but I feel as though it's not the right way to do it when they go against the wife and children."
Angela West said her daughter went so far as to change her name in school because she feels completely ostracized. "We've had a really rough time of it here," she said.
But she said that she has gotten tremendously supportive e-mails from the general public and she said her faith in her husband is unwavering.
"My husband did what he had to do to save his men and to bring them back," Angela West said.
Fox News' Steve Harrigan in Tikrit and The Associated Press contributed to this report.