An American soldier has been reprimanded and will be discharged for taking a break from a foot patrol in Baghdad to marry an Iraqi woman, his lawyer said Monday.
Sgt. Sean Blackwell, 27, is being punished for divulging the time and location of the patrol to his bride and the Iraqi judge who married them, his attorney said. The Florida National Guardsman avoided a possible court-martial for dereliction of duty and disobeying orders.
Blackwell received a written reprimand in advance of the discharge, attorney Richard Alvoid said.
"The more they punish him, the more negative publicity the military likely will receive," he said. "He is guilty of falling in love."
Florida Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Ron Tittle said he had no word on disciplinary action against Blackwell or a second Florida guardsman, Cpl. Brett Dagen, 37, who married another Iraqi woman in a double ceremony during a break on the same patrol Aug. 17. Both women are physicians.
The soldiers, attached to the 1st Armored Division (search), have been in Iraq since April. Both were Christians who converted to Islam before they married.
A division spokesman in Baghdad, Capt. Jason Beck, had no immediate comment on the soldiers' status. Blackwell's mother, Vickie McKee, said her son has told her he could be discharged and sent home by Christmas.
The Army has not permitted Blackwell to see his bride since the wedding but recently allowed them to resume contact by telephone, McKee said.
"He's a little ticked off at the government right now," she said. "I'd hate for him to get a dishonorable discharge because he fell in love."
McKee said her son told her Dagen and his bride are divorcing under pressure from the wife's parents. Gwen Tutton, Dagen's cousin, said he has told family members to stop speaking to the media.
Alvoid said Blackwell's bride, Ehdaa, has received anti-American threats and may leave the country by Christmas to go to western Europe, where the couple could be reunited. It would take much longer to get her into the United States, he said.
The couple met while Blackwell was on guard duty at the Iraqi Health Ministry (search).
Alvoid said he soon expects to complete a book deal for Blackwell and his wife, and that a movie may follow.