US Army Deserter Flees to Canada
- Lexington, Ky., man sits in Canada and waits
By JIM WARREN
Herald-Leader researcher Linda Niemi contributed to this report.
Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader
Feb. 01, 2005
US Army PVT Darrell Anderson deserted the U.S. Army and fled to
Canada to avoid Iraq.
Greg Henkenhaf/Toronto Sun
Darrell Anderson's mother thought he was fine when he came home from
Iraq last July. But when the 22-year-old Lexingtonian came home on
leave again at Christmas, she found him deeply changed.
"He paced the floor constantly, never once slept through the night,"
Anita Anderson said of her son. "He would get up in the middle of
the night and go out walking. He was having nightmares; he was
depressed; he couldn't even watch a movie."
Anderson, who was wounded in Iraq last April, was deeply
disillusioned about the war. The possibility of another tour in Iraq
this summer was something he-couldn't face.
So, when Anderson's holiday leave in Lexington ended three weeks
ago, he didn't return to his Army unit in Germany. Instead, he fled
to Canada, where he is hoping the Canadian government will provide
refuge for him and a small, but growing, number of U.S. military
deserters who want to avoid the war.
Leaving your own country and walking away from a commitment to serve
it is a tough, life-changing decision at any age. At best, Anderson
might be allowed to stay in Canada, but never be able to return home
again to see his parents or his 4-year-old daughter, who now lives
with her mother. At worst, he could be turned away by the Canadian
government, possibly to face prison for desertion in the United
States. He knows many may brand him a coward or a traitor.
"I know there's a lot of consequences to it," Anderson said
yesterday by telephone from Toronto. "But I've given it a lot of
thought ... and there is no way I can go back and be a part of that
"I started to think ... what's it really for? I was willing to die
for my country. I thought I was going over there to defend my
country. But that's not what I was doing."
Darrell Anderson didn't always oppose the war. He joined the U.S.
Army in January 2003 to get money for college and to serve his
country. He went to Iraq almost exactly a year later with the Army's
1st Armored Division. Over the next seven months, mostly in Baghdad,
he was in the thick of the fight against insurgents opposing
democracy in Iraq.
But Anderson's views changed as the fighting and the random dying
An incident last April was the final straw, he said.
Anderson and his buddies were helping to defend an Iraqi police
station that was under fire by insurgents. Suddenly, a car swerved
into the area, refusing to stop. In such combat situations -- when
any stranger was a potential enemy and any vehicle might contain a
bomb -- soldiers were expected to open fire. But Anderson never
pulled the trigger of his M-16.
"This car kept coming, and the other guys were yelling, 'Why don't
you shoot, why don't you shoot?' But I felt the car posed no threat.
Then, the window of the car rolled down, and it was just an Iraqi
family. I said, 'Look it's just innocent people.' But they kept
telling me, 'The next time, you open fire. We don't care.'"
A few days later Anderson was wounded by a roadside bomb. He
received the Purple Heart. But he says the incident at the police
station, not his wounds, convinced him that the war was wrong. He
said he felt he was being forced to possibly gun down innocent
"There are no weapons of mass destruction. Innocent people are being
killed every day. It's a war about money -- to keep money in rich
people's pockets. There is no way I can believe in that. I still
believe in my country, but I can no longer be a part of the Army or
The Pentagon has reported about 5,500 U.S. deserters since the war
began. Anderson is one of about a dozen or so who have fled to
Canada and sought the assistance of Toronto attorney Jeffry House,
who is representing them. House, a Vietnam draft dodger himself, is
hoping to persuade Canadian officials to let them stay. Once Canada
openly accepted deserters, and up to 60,000 Americans went there
during the Vietnam War, either as deserters or draft dodgers. But
Canadian immigration rules are tougher now, and public opinion is
divided over whether deserters should be allowed to stay.
"The law generally is that people have to apply from outside of
Canada, unless they have a fear of remaining in their own country
due to the possibility of persecution," House said yesterday. "We're
telling the Canadian government and courts that it is persecution to
prosecute someone for refusing to fight in Iraq, because Iraq is a
war that violates international law.
Each case is decided on an individual basis. More U.S. deserters
could be coming. House said he has received inquiries from up to 200
other U.S. service members who are interested in moving to Canada to
avoid war in Iraq.
It was unclear yesterday whether the Army actually has declared
Anderson a deserter. An Army spokeswoman in Washington said only
that officials were checking the case.
For Anderson, who was facing another possible deployment in July,
the decision to go to Canada became clear while he was in Lexington
Anita Anderson was surprised by his announcement.
"Darrell said, 'Mom, are you going to be ashamed of me? People are
going to be calling me a traitor or a deserter.' I told him, 'You
volunteered you went and you served your country.'
"I support him because he's my son," Anita Anderson said. "If he'd
gone back to Iraq, I would have supported him in that too."
Few would have picked Anderson as one to flee military service. He
loved sports. He played Babe Ruth baseball at Kirklevington Park. He
liked to attend Thoroughblades hockey games, and he loved the
Kentucky Wildcats. He played centerfield for three years on the
Bryan Station baseball team, making All-City his senior year,
graduating in 2001. His coach, Steve Chandler, remembers him as "a
dependable young man. A team player who was always at practice, and
did everything we ever asked him to do."
But Anita Anderson remembers another side of her son.
"He never got in a fight. He was always the one trying to keep the
peace. When other kids would get into fights, he was the one who
tried to stop it."
She said that when her son was struggling with depression while on
leave at Christmas she tried to get him to talk. But he wouldn't.
Only after deciding to go to Canada did he start to open up, she
"We didn't think he would actually go, but the next call we got he
was in Canada," she said. "He felt kind of ashamed about not going
back, because when you're trained as a soldier you're not supposed
to feel that way. Of course, I worry about him. But what mother
wouldn't want her son to make a decision not to harm another human
Anderson says he can only wait for Canada to decide whether he can
stay, and it's unclear how long his case might take. He has no real
plans as yet. The future, he admits, is completely uncertain.
"You know, you raise your right hand to salute the flag, and you cry
during the national anthem. It's hard to question that. There are
things I wanted to do before that I probably will not get to do
now," he said. "I wanted to be a health and PE teacher ... just have
a job and a place to live. I wish I could be chilling back in
Kentucky right now. But I'm just hoping to start a life again."
WORLD VIEW NEWS SERVICE
To subscribe to this group, send an email to:
NEWS ARCHIVE IS OPEN TO PUBLIC VIEW