Decorated soldier avoids second tour
02/01/05 “AP” — LEXINGTON, Ky. — Rather than face another tour of duty in Iraq, a Lexington First Armored Division soldier who won a Purple Heart after he was wounded by a roadside bomb in April has deserted to Canada.
Darrell Anderson, 22, wounded in Iraq last April, was deeply disillusioned about the war, according to his mother, Anita Anderson. The possibility of another tour in Iraq this summer was something he couldn’t face, she told the Lexington Herald-Leader.
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 number of U.S. military deserters who want to avoid the war.
“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,” Anderson said by telephone from Toronto on Monday.
When he came home from Iraq last July, Anita Anderson said her son seemed fine, but was deeply changed when he returned home on leave again at Christmas.
“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 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 without risking arrest. His daughter now lives with her mother.
Anderson joined the Army in January 2003 to get money for college and to serve his country.
He went to Iraq a year later with the Army’s 1st Armored Division. Over the next seven months, he was in the thick of the fight against insurgents, mostly in Baghdad.
An incident last April changed his views concerning the fighting.
Anderson was with a group of soldiers helping to defend an Iraqi police station that was under fire. Suddenly, a car swerved into the area, refusing to stop. Soldiers are expected to open fire when that happens because any stranger is a potential enemy and any vehicle might contain a bomb. 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,” Anderson said. “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 Iraqis.
“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,” Anderson said.
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, is hoping to persuade Canadian officials to let them stay.