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US Army Deserter Flees to Canada

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    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.
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 2, 2005
      Lexington, Ky., man sits in Canada and waits
      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
      that war."

      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
      at Christmas.

      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."




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