Canadian Jon Snyder helped save 50 Afghan recruits from the Taliban. Three days later, he died


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Bullets pelted the low mud wall above Capt. Jonathan Snyder’s head, showering him and the Afghan troops round him in mud.

Taliban machine weapons rattled within the distance, spraying the opposite aspect of the wall with lead.

“Inform them to shoot again!” Jon yelled to the Afghan Nationwide Military (ANA) commander subsequent to him. The person simply stared again, frozen within the face of his first main battle. His 55 ANA troops have been lined up alongside the low mud wall, ready for orders in what was their first fight mission beneath the Canadians’ steering.

They weren’t purported to be ducking bullets in a stinking ditch between two farmer’s fields, ready for the Taliban to encompass them and gun all of them down. They have been purported to be studying the way to march.

Jon pressed his again towards the wall and listened for a break within the Taliban gunfire.

He jumped up on the first break in hearth and began taking pictures again, peppering one of many Taliban-held compounds throughout the sphere with bullets. He dropped to his stomach a second later, simply as gunfire minimize the air the place he’d been standing.

Jon’s staff of 4 Canadian troopers adopted his lead, peaking over the wall to fireside a couple of photographs, then ducking and transferring a couple of steps alongside the wall earlier than firing once more.

“Struggle again!” Jon urged the ANA troops as soon as extra.

They didn’t perceive his phrases, however they acquired the message. They began taking pictures again, two and three at a time, leaping up and firing wildly earlier than ducking again behind the metre-high wall.

The Taliban gunfire eased off, and out of the blue the Canadians and the Afghans felt like they’d an opportunity.

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Months later, Jon and his Canadian troops can be honoured at Rideau Corridor for exhibiting the Afghans the way to battle off the Taliban and escape the ambush, whereas ensuring that nobody was left behind.

“With little likelihood of survival, they uncovered themselves to nice peril and retaliated towards the enemy whereas encouraging the Afghan troopers to do the identical,” the Governor Basic’s workplace stated in its official account of that battle.

Cpl. Cary Baker, Cpl. Steven Bancarz and Capt. Robert Peel obtained the Canadian Medal of Navy Valour for his or her efforts that day, whereas Cpl. Donovan Ball and Capt. Snyder have been awarded the Star of Navy Valour — the best honour handed out throughout the Afghan Battle. Ball risked enemy hearth to maintain their escape route open, whereas Snyder coached the Afghan commander by a virtually unwinnable scenario.

However Jon wasn’t there to obtain his medal. The 26-year-old died three nights after the ambush, when he fell into an unmarked nicely throughout an evening patrol in southeastern Afghanistan.

A memorial for Jonathan Snyder is proven in Langley, B.C., on Nov. 11, 2013.

Dale Friesen/Fb

Jon’s household and former comrades-in-arms are remembering him for his management, his dedication and his decency this Remembrance Day, as they mark the 10th anniversary of his loss of life in Afghanistan.

Jon’s father David, a former reservist, says he had misgivings in regards to the Afghan Battle, however he’d wished to maintain these to himself till after his son was completed serving.

“Battle is so silly,” stated David Snyder in a cellphone interview from Penticton, B.C. “However generally, it’s a must to go.”

Snyder says his son was an honest, widespread and fiercely impartial man who all the time handled others with respect. “He wasn’t hung up or resentful,” Snyder stated.

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Bancarz described Jon as a “pure chief” who didn’t lord his ability over others. “He wasn’t cocky, he wasn’t egotistical,” Bancarz stated. “He was simply good at it.”

Peel stated Jon was a superb soldier who might need in the future develop into a prime commander within the Canadian Forces. “Everybody regarded him as one of many guys who was going to go all the best way,” Peel stated.

Baker remembers Jon as somebody who was actually devoted to being a soldier.

“It’s a tragic factor, however the man died doing what he cherished to do.”

A B.C. boy who “wasn’t intimidated” by bullies

Jonathan Sutherland Snyder was born Dec. 20, 1981, and raised on his household’s ranch in Penticton, B.C., alongside together with his brother Adam, who was a couple of years older. Their father David taught English at Penticton Excessive Faculty and their mom, Anne, was a neighborhood reporter.

Jon was an impartial and assured boy who knew from a younger age that he wished to be within the army. He joined the cadets at age 12 and deliberate to develop into an officer after college.

He pursued a variety of pursuits as a baby, from snowboarding and basketball to singing and performing on stage.

“He had a confidence that he gained early from performing in musical theatre,” Jon’s dad, David, stated in a cellphone interview from his house in Penticton. “He wasn’t intimidated.”

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Jon additionally had the arrogance to face up for his beliefs when he noticed one thing mistaken. At age 13, he intervened to cease an older child from bullying a youthful boy at cadet camp in Valcartier, Que.

“That’s harassment,” Jon advised the bully.

The older cadet turned on Jon and pinned him towards the wall, saying: “I’ll let you know what harassment is.”

Jon reported the incident to his dad and mom and it acquired again to the regional cadet officer. Jon’s dad says the bully was “accosted” inside 24 hours, and the boy didn’t trouble anybody once more.

‘I’ve a whole lot of hope for this nation’

Jon joined the Canadian Forces at age 18 by the Common Officer Coaching Plan, which allowed him to pursue a post-secondary training whereas coaching to develop into an officer. He graduated from the College of Victoria in 2003 with a serious in English and a minor in sociology, then joined the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Gentle Infantry in Edmonton as a lieutenant.

Jon deployed to Afghanistan for his first tour of responsibility in February 2006. He impressed the Canadian brass on the Battle of Panjwaii in March, and was promoted to captain a short while later.

In a 2006 interview with the Canadian Press, Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie recommended Snyder had the heart and intelligence to in the future succeed him as head of the Canadian military. Leslie is now parliamentary secretary to the Minister of International Affairs.

Capt. Jonathan Snyder is shown in Afghanistan.

Capt. Jonathan Snyder is proven in Afghanistan.

Steven Horsby/Fb

Jon cherished serving in Afghanistan, and downplayed the risks of the job in conversations together with his dad and mom.

“I’ve a whole lot of hope for this nation,” he advised his dad and mom in a 2006 electronic mail.

“Once I speak to the locals, 99 per cent of them are uninterested in the conflict and simply wish to dwell a standard life. That’s the reason we’re right here, to offer safety within the space and help the brand new authorities in order that in the future, this nation can help itself.”

Buried in the course of that electronic mail was an admission: Jon had survived an improvised explosive system that struck his armoured automobile on April 7.

“Don’t fear, everybody walked away from the assault with out damage,” he wrote, including: “The expertise has taught me some worthwhile classes that can hold me safer sooner or later.”

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Jon’s tour lasted eight months, after which he returned to Canada and purchased a apartment in Edmonton together with his then-girlfriend, Megan. The 2 had been pals since Grade 5 and have become a pair in highschool.

The Canadian Loss of life Race and a return to Afghanistan

Jon spent the summer time of 2007 residing with Megan in Edmonton and coaching with a number of troopers within the space, together with Robert Peel.

“He was the entire bundle,” Capt. Peel stated. “He was extraordinarily well-read, extraordinarily match, had an distinctive understanding of the battlespace and his folks, and simply oozed management.”

Jon and Peel determined to see how powerful they have been by tackling the grueling Canadian Loss of life Race – a 125-kilometre ultra-marathon by the Rocky Mountains. Most contestants run the race as a part of a five-man relay, however Jon and Peel have been decided to every run the race solo.

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Rob says spotters pulled him out of the race on the 100-kilometre mark, “as a result of my eyes weren’t dilating anymore.”

However Jon simply saved working. “Jon completed the race with no issues in any respect — besides that he nearly killed himself with acute renal failure,” Peel stated.

Cpl. Baker says Jon’s efficiency received him a whole lot of respect amongst his fellow troopers. “He put himself within the hospital voluntarily, making an attempt to do this race himself,” Baker stated. “The man didn’t have an oz. of stop in him.”

Jon proposed to Megan on Christmas Eve in Costa Rica, and the 2 agreed to set their wedding ceremony date for one 12 months later, December 2008 in Jamaica.

Jon volunteered for a second Afghan tour earlier than the marriage: an eight-month coaching mission with the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Crew, starting in February 2008. He and his staff of 4 Canadians would practice teams of 100 Afghan troops to battle the Taliban.

Jonathan Snyder, centre, is shown in Afghanistan in this photo from 2008.

Jonathan Snyder, centre, is proven in Afghanistan on this picture from 2008.

Derek McLagan/Fb

Jon spent 4 months coaching his first group of recruits earlier than he was rotated out to work with a brand new group in Afghanistan’s unstable Zharey district in late Might.

Jon was additionally separated from his authentic squad and assigned 4 short-term troopers to command: Capt. Robert Peel and Corporals Baker, Bancarz and Ball. He knew Peel from their exercise periods in 2007, however he didn’t know the others very nicely.


Jon and his new squad have been despatched out on June four, 2008, to mentor an organization of Afghan military recruits by a serious operation in southeastern Afghanistan. They left their base at 2:30 a.m. and marched south on a mission to verify a number of former Taliban weapon caches that have been considered empty.

In this Dec. 4, 2007 file photo, Canadian troops are shown in the Sangasar region near where Jonathan Snyder’s unit was ambushed.

On this Dec. four, 2007 file picture, Canadian troops are proven within the Sangasar area close to the place Jonathan Snyder’s unit was ambushed.

he Canadian Press Photos/Louie Palu

That they had simply stopped between two farmers’ fields close to their first goal once they got here beneath hearth. The Taliban had been ready for them in a cluster of close by buildings.

The Afghans and Canadians took cowl on the west aspect of a low mud wall that protected them from machine gun hearth to the east, northeast and south. They feared the Taliban would minimize them down in the event that they retreated throughout a area to the west, so they’d no selection however to hunker down behind the wall and determine the way to break the ambush.

“They stunning a lot had us,” Baker stated.

“They got here very near fully encircling us.”

However Jon didn’t panic. As an alternative, he despatched Peel and Baker to battle from a trench-like highway on the south finish of the wall, and later dispatched Ball and Bancarz to guard their escape route on the north finish. He additionally refused to let the Afghans abandon two troopers who have been severely injured throughout the battle.

Peel says Jon expertly coordinated their defence by earpiece radios, issuing orders and demanding updates all through the battle.

“The entire time Jon was simply speaking to us … on this actually calm, cool voice,” Peel stated. “The extra pressured he acquired, the calmer his voice acquired.”

In this Dec. 4, 2007 file photo, a Canadian soldier with a machine gun covers a line of advance during an operation in the Zharey-Panjwaii area where Canadian troops were later ambushed.

On this Dec. four, 2007 file picture, a Canadian soldier with a machine gun covers a line of advance throughout an operation within the Zharey-Panjwaii space the place Canadian troops have been later ambushed.

The Canadian Press Photos/Louie Palu

The ambush lasted almost two hours, and ended when Cpl. Ball made contact with reinforcements on the north finish of the wall. Jon ordered the retreat and the Afghan and Canadian troops slowly backed out of the ambush.

Peel and Baker stumbled throughout two injured Afghan troopers as they introduced up the rear. They advised Jon and he despatched a number of extra ANA troops again to hold their injured males.

“It was organized chaos,” Baker stated. He described the Afghan troopers as “about as inexperienced as they get.”

Peel stated the Afghan leaders have been clearly inexperienced, however among the Afghan recruits have been spectacular of their first battle.

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The Canadian and Afghan troops put the 2 wounded males on helicopters and marched again to their base at Howz-e-Madad, southwest of Kandahar, after the battle. The Taliban harassed them alongside the best way however didn’t mount one other full-scale assault. Baker, Bancarz and Peel say they’re nonetheless unsure what number of Taliban they have been combating that day, but it surely might need been as many as 60 well-trained insurgents.

All of them took a second again on the base to understand simply how fortunate they’d been to flee the battle.

“It was in all probability about as unhealthy because it will get, and if it wasn’t for Jon’s management and understanding of what was happening, after which all 5 of us working as a staff to get out of there, it in all probability may have ended up so much worse,” Peel stated.

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An accident on patrol

Three days later, Jon and a number of other different troopers have been on a foot patrol after darkish, with solely a skinny crescent of moon to mild their method.

They have been navigating by a grape area with the assistance of their evening imaginative and prescient cameras, which cowl one eye and depict the world in inexperienced mild and shadow. Night time imaginative and prescient cameras amplify mild however additionally they mess along with your depth notion, making it arduous to see your toes or keep away from small obstacles on the bottom. It was significantly darkish that evening, and the sphere was stuffed with shadows.

A Canadian Forces soldier is shown with a night-vision camera attached to his helmet before a patrol in Panjwaii, Kandahar, Afghanistan on Apr. 18, 2010.

A Canadian Forces soldier is proven with a night-vision digicam connected to his helmet earlier than a patrol in Panjwaii, Kandahar, Afghanistan on Apr. 18, 2010.

The Canadian Press/Louie Palu

Snyder by no means noticed the shadow that might kill him — an unmarked, open nicely referred to as a kariz, which farmers use to irrigate their fields. Most of those wells are uncovered holes sufficiently big to drop a bucket into — nothing in any respect like a typical water nicely.

Jon fell into the kariz and plummeted greater than 20 metres to the underside, into an underground reservoir, someday after 9 p.m. that evening.

The troopers above floor tried to get him out, however the gap was too deep and the bottom round it was too mushy.

Baker says Jon kicked off his heavy boots and tried to shrug off the almost 45 kilograms of drugs that threatened to tug him down.

“He fought for 4 or 5 hours,” Baker stated. “He fought the entire time.”

Engineers, rescue crews and medics confirmed up and ultimately pulled Jon from the water, unconscious, someday after midnight on June eight. They rushed him by helicopter to Kandahar Airfield, the place he was pronounced useless upon arrival.

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“It was devastating,” stated Peel, who was assigned to take over Jon’s unit the subsequent day. “Because the years have passed by it’s in all probability one of many issues I’ve struggled with probably the most — the survivor’s guilt of all of it.”

Bancarz says Jon’s loss of life got here as a shock to everybody on the bottom. “It doesn’t matter for those who get vapourized by an IED, riddled with bullets or fall in a nicely,” he stated. “It’s nonetheless arduous, man. It’s nonetheless arduous.”

The Snyder household discovered about Jon’s accident the subsequent day. A military colonel confirmed as much as inform Megan about it, and he or she broke the information to Jon’s dad, David, by cellphone.

“I don’t know if I’ve been the identical since,” David stated.

Remembering Jon

The Canadian Forces flew Jon’s physique again to Trenton, Ont., on June 11, and buried him at Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa on June 16. He was the 85th Canadian soldier killed within the battle.

Eight months later, Jon’s fiancée Megan accepted his Star of Navy Valour from then-governor Basic Michaelle Jean. Bancarz, Baker, Peel and Ball have been additionally there to simply accept their medals within the ceremony at Rideau Corridor.

Governor General Michaelle Jean speaks with Megan Leigh Stewart as she presents her with the Star of Military Valour to her presented posthumously to her common-law husband, Capt. Jonathan Snyder, during a ceremony at Rideau Hall Friday, Feb. 13, 2009.

Governor Basic Michaelle Jean speaks with Megan Leigh Stewart as she presents her with the Star of Navy Valour to her offered posthumously to her common-law husband, Capt. Jonathan Snyder, throughout a ceremony at Rideau Corridor Friday, Feb. 13, 2009.


Jon’s former comrades say they’ve combined emotions in regards to the medals they earned from that ambush.

Baker tried to show the medal down, however he’s grown to simply accept it through the years. “I spotted I may use it to indicate how superior Jon was,” he stated.

Jonathan Snyder’s mother reflects on the Afghan War

“It’s an amazing honour and I’m actually happy with it and happy with the blokes I used to be with that day, however I wrestle with it generally,” Peel stated.

Jon’s mom Anne, who lives in Nova Scotia, flew again to Penticton to be the Silver Cross mom for the Remembrance Day service in 2013. The city has arrange a number of tributes for her son, together with a memorial plaque. The Snyders additionally launched a scholarship in his identify on the native highschool.

David and Dorothy Anne Snyder are shown participating in a National Day of Honour ceremony at a Canadian Forces base in Esquimalt, B.C., on May 9, 2014.

David and Dorothy Anne Snyder are proven taking part in a Nationwide Day of Honour ceremony at a Canadian Forces base in Esquimalt, B.C., on Might 9, 2014.


David says his son would wish to be remembered as a very good man and soldier. He wouldn’t wish to be lionized as a larger-than-life “hero.”

Baker says Jon lived his dream of being a soldier, and that’s how he’d in all probability wish to be remembered.

“We’re all there as a result of we volunteered to do it, and Jon was the epitome of that,” Baker stated.

“That man may actually do something he wished together with his life, and that’s what he selected. He was in all probability top-of-the-line I’ve ever seen do it.”

Peel says he used to have a look at Remembrance Day as a time to pay tribute to veterans from the First and Second World Battle — a set of distant names to honour from another person’s battle.

“The lack of Jon in Afghanistan made Remembrance Day very actual for me,” he stated.

“For me, yearly, Remembrance Day is about remembering Jon Snyder.”

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