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

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

Taliban gadget weapons rattled within the distance, spraying the opposite facet 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 struggle. His 55 ANA troops had been coated up alongside the low dust wall, looking ahead to orders in what used to be their first struggle challenge below the Canadians’ steerage.

They weren’t meant to be ducking bullets in a stinking ditch between two farmer’s fields, looking ahead to the Taliban to enclose them and gun all of them down. They had been meant to be finding out how you can march.

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

He jumped up on the first smash in hearth and began taking pictures again, peppering one of the vital Taliban-held compounds around the box with bullets. He dropped to his abdominal a 2d later, simply as gunfire reduce the air the place he’d been status.

Jon’s workforce of 4 Canadian infantrymen adopted his lead, peaking over the wall to fireplace a couple of pictures, then ducking and transferring a couple of steps alongside the wall earlier than firing once more.

“Struggle again!” Jon prompt the ANA troops another time.

They didn’t perceive his phrases, however they were given the message. They began taking pictures again, two and 3 at a time, leaping up and firing wildly earlier than ducking again at the back of the metre-high wall.

The Taliban gunfire eased off, and all of sudden the Canadians and the Afghans felt like that they had a possibility.

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Months later, Jon and his Canadian troops could be honoured at Rideau Corridor for appearing the Afghans how you can combat off the Taliban and get away the ambush, whilst ensuring that nobody used to be left at the back of.

“With little probability of survival, they uncovered themselves to nice peril and retaliated towards the enemy whilst encouraging the Afghan infantrymen to do the similar,” the Governor Basic’s administrative center mentioned in its professional account of that struggle.

Cpl. Cary Baker, Cpl. Steven Bancarz and Capt. Robert Peel won the Canadian Medal of Army Valour for his or her efforts that day, whilst Cpl. Donovan Ball and Capt. Snyder had been awarded the Megastar of Army Valour — the perfect honour passed out all over the Afghan Conflict. Ball risked enemy hearth to stay their get away path open, whilst Snyder coached the Afghan commander via a just about unwinnable scenario.

However Jon wasn’t there to obtain his medal. The 26-year-old died 3 nights after the ambush, when he fell into an unmarked nicely all over an evening patrol in southeastern Afghanistan.

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

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

Dale Friesen/Fb

Jon’s circle of relatives and previous comrades-in-arms are remembering him for his management, his willpower and his decency this Remembrance Day, as they mark the 10th anniversary of his dying in Afghanistan.

Jon’s father David, a former reservist, says he had misgivings in regards to the Afghan Conflict, however he’d sought after to stay the ones to himself till after his son used to be performed serving.

“Conflict is so silly,” mentioned David Snyder in a telephone interview from Penticton, B.C. “However occasionally, it’s a must to cross.”

Snyder says his son used to be a good, widespread and fiercely impartial guy who all the time handled others with recognize. “He wasn’t hung up or envious,” Snyder mentioned.

WATCH BELOW: Penticton scholars mark Remembrance Day in 2015

Bancarz described Jon as a “herbal chief” who didn’t lord his talent over others. “He wasn’t cocky, he wasn’t egotistical,” Bancarz mentioned. “He used to be simply excellent at it.”

Peel mentioned Jon used to be a super soldier who would possibly have at some point grow to be a most sensible commander within the Canadian Forces. “Everybody seemed him as one of the vital guys who used to be going to head the entire method,” Peel mentioned.

Baker recalls Jon as anyone who used to be actually devoted to being a soldier.

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

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

Jonathan Sutherland Snyder used to be born Dec. 20, 1981, and raised on his circle of relatives’s ranch in Penticton, B.C., at the side of his brother Adam, who used to be a couple of years older. Their father David taught English at Penticton Top Faculty and their mom, Anne, used to be a neighborhood reporter.

Jon used to be an impartial and assured boy who knew from a tender age that he sought after to be within the army. He joined the cadets at age 12 and deliberate to grow to be an officer after college.

He pursued quite a lot of pursuits as a kid, from snowboarding and basketball to making a song and performing on degree.

“He had a self belief that he received early from appearing in musical theatre,” Jon’s dad, David, mentioned in a telephone interview from his house in Penticton. “He wasn’t intimidated.”

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Jon additionally had the arrogance to rise up for his ideals when he noticed one thing fallacious. At age 13, he intervened to forestall an older child from bullying a more youthful boy at cadet camp in Valcartier, Que.

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

The older cadet became on Jon and pinned him towards the wall, announcing: “I’ll inform you what harassment is.”

Jon reported the incident to his oldsters and it were given again to the regional cadet officer. Jon’s dad says the bully used to be “accosted” inside 24 hours, and the boy didn’t trouble somebody once more.

‘I’ve a large number of hope for this nation’

Jon joined the Canadian Forces at age 18 throughout the Common Officer Coaching Plan, which allowed him to pursue a post-secondary training whilst coaching to grow to be an officer. He graduated from the College of Victoria in 2003 with a big 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 excursion of accountability in February 2006. He inspired the Canadian brass on the Combat of Panjwaii in March, and used to be promoted to captain a short while later.

In a 2006 interview with the Canadian Press, Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie urged Snyder had the heart and intelligence to at some point prevail 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 beloved serving in Afghanistan, and downplayed the risks of the process in conversations together with his oldsters.

“I’ve a large number of hope for this nation,” he advised his oldsters in a 2006 e-mail.

“After I communicate to the locals, 99 in keeping with cent of them are bored with the struggle and simply wish to reside a standard existence. For this reason we’re right here, to offer safety within the house and reinforce the brand new govt in order that at some point, this nation can reinforce itself.”

Buried in the course of that e-mail used to be an admission: Jon had survived an improvised explosive tool that struck his armoured car on April 7.

“Don’t fear, everybody walked clear of the assault with out damage,” he wrote, including: “The enjoy has taught me some treasured classes that may stay me more secure sooner or later.”

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Jon’s excursion lasted 8 months, and then he returned to Canada and purchased a condominium in Edmonton together with his then-girlfriend, Megan. The 2 have been pals since Grade five and turned into a pair in highschool.

The Canadian Dying Race and a go back to Afghanistan

Jon spent the summer season of 2007 residing with Megan in Edmonton and coaching with a number of infantrymen within the house, together with Robert Peel.

“He used to be the entire package deal,” Capt. Peel mentioned. “He used to be extraordinarily well-read, extraordinarily have compatibility, had a phenomenal working out of the battlespace and his folks, and simply oozed management.”

Jon and Peel made up our minds to look how difficult they had been through tackling the grueling Canadian Dying Race – a 125-kilometre ultra-marathon throughout the Rocky Mountains. Maximum contestants run the race as a part of a five-man relay, however Jon and Peel had been made up our minds to every run the race solo.

WATCH BELOW: What it’s love to win the Canadian Dying Race

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 stored working. “Jon completed the race without a issues in any respect — except for that he nearly killed himself with acute renal failure,” Peel mentioned.

Cpl. Baker says Jon’s efficiency received him a large number of recognize amongst his fellow infantrymen. “He put himself within the health facility voluntarily, making an attempt to try this race himself,” Baker mentioned. “The man didn’t have an oz of surrender in him.”

Jon proposed to Megan on Christmas Eve in Costa Rica, and the 2 agreed to set their wedding ceremony date for three hundred and sixty five days later, December 2008 in Jamaica.

Jon volunteered for a 2d Afghan excursion earlier than the marriage: an eight-month coaching challenge with the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Staff, starting in February 2008. He and his workforce of 4 Canadians would educate teams of 100 Afghan troops to combat the Taliban.

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

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

Derek McLagan/Fb

Jon spent 4 months coaching his first staff of recruits earlier than he used to be circled out to paintings with a brand new staff in Afghanistan’s unstable Zharey district in overdue Would possibly.

Jon used to be additionally separated from his authentic squad and assigned 4 transient infantrymen 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 rather well.


Jon and his new squad had been despatched out on June four, 2008, to mentor an organization of Afghan military recruits via a big operation in southeastern Afghanistan. They left their base at 2:30 a.m. and marched south on a challenge to test a number of former Taliban weapon caches that had been regarded as 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 report photograph, Canadian troops are proven within the Sangasar area close to the place Jonathan Snyder’s unit used to be ambushed.

he Canadian Press Photographs/Louie Palu

They’d simply stopped between two farmers’ fields close to their first purpose after they got here below hearth. The Taliban have been looking ahead to them in a cluster of close by constructions.

The Afghans and Canadians took duvet at the west facet of a low dust wall that safe them from gadget gun hearth to the east, northeast and south. They feared the Taliban would narrow them down in the event that they retreated throughout a box to the west, so that they had no selection however to hunker down at the back of the wall and determine how you can smash the ambush.

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

“They got here very on the subject of utterly encircling us.”

However Jon didn’t panic. As an alternative, he despatched Peel and Baker to combat from a trench-like street on the south finish of the wall, and later dispatched Ball and Bancarz to give protection to their get away path on the north finish. He additionally refused to let the Afghans abandon two infantrymen who had been significantly injured all over the combat.

Peel says Jon expertly coordinated their defence via earpiece radios, issuing orders and important updates during the struggle.

“The entire time Jon used to be simply speaking to us … on this truly calm, cool voice,” Peel mentioned. “The extra stressed out he were given, the calmer his voice were given.”

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 report photograph, a Canadian soldier with a gadget gun covers a line of advance all over an operation within the Zharey-Panjwaii house the place Canadian troops had been later ambushed.

The Canadian Press Photographs/Louie Palu

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

Peel and Baker stumbled throughout two injured Afghan infantrymen 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 used to be arranged chaos,” Baker mentioned. He described the Afghan infantrymen as “about as inexperienced as they get.”

Peel mentioned the Afghan leaders had been obviously green, however one of the crucial Afghan recruits had been spectacular of their first struggle.

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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 struggle. The Taliban careworn them alongside the best way however didn’t mount some other full-scale attack. Baker, Bancarz and Peel say they’re nonetheless no longer certain what number of Taliban they had been combating that day, however it would were 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 combat.

“It used to be almost certainly about as dangerous because it will get, and if it wasn’t for Jon’s management and working out of what used to be happening, after which all 5 people running as a workforce to get out of there, it almost certainly can have ended up so much worse,” Peel mentioned.

WATCH BELOW: Canada honours fallen infantrymen in ‘No Stone Left On my own’ ceremonies

An coincidence on patrol

3 days later, Jon and a number of other different infantrymen had been on a foot patrol after darkish, with just a skinny crescent of moon to gentle their method.

They had been navigating via a grape box with the assistance of their evening imaginative and prescient cameras, which duvet one eye and depict the sector in inexperienced gentle and shadow. Evening imaginative and prescient cameras magnify gentle however in addition they mess together with your intensity belief, making it laborious to look your toes or steer clear of small stumbling blocks at the flooring. It used to be specifically darkish that evening, and the sphere used to be 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 digital camera hooked up 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 may kill him — an unmarked, open nicely known as a kariz, which farmers use to irrigate their fields. All these wells are exposed holes large enough to drop a bucket into — not anything in any respect like an ordinary water nicely.

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

The warriors above flooring attempted to get him out, however the hollow used to be too deep and the bottom round it used to be too cushy.

Baker says Jon kicked off his heavy boots and attempted to shrug off the just about 45 kilograms of substances that threatened to tug him down.

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

Engineers, rescue crews and medics confirmed up and sooner or later pulled Jon from the water, subconscious, someday after middle of the night on June eight. They rushed him through helicopter to Kandahar Airfield, the place he used to be pronounced useless upon arrival.

Canadian death toll in Afghanistan includes 157 Forces members, 2 civilians

“It used to be devastating,” mentioned Peel, who used to be assigned to take over Jon’s unit the next day to come. “Because the years have long gone through it’s almost certainly one of the vital issues I’ve struggled with probably the most — the survivor’s guilt of all of it.”

Bancarz says Jon’s dying got here as a surprise to everybody at the base. “It doesn’t topic when you get vapourized through an IED, riddled with bullets or fall in a nicely,” he mentioned. “It’s nonetheless laborious, guy. It’s nonetheless laborious.”

The Snyder circle of relatives realized about Jon’s coincidence the next day to come. A military colonel confirmed as much as inform Megan about it, and she or he broke the inside track to Jon’s dad, David, through telephone.

“I don’t know if I’ve been the similar since,” David mentioned.

Remembering Jon

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

8 months later, Jon’s fiancée Megan permitted his Megastar of Army Valour from then-governor Basic Michaelle Jean. Bancarz, Baker, Peel and Ball had been additionally there to simply accept their medals within the rite 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 gifts her with the Megastar of Army Valour to her introduced posthumously to her common-law husband, Capt. Jonathan Snyder, all over a rite 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 attempted to show the medal down, however he’s grown to simply accept it over time. “I noticed I may just use it to turn how superior Jon used to be,” he mentioned.

Jonathan Snyder’s mother reflects on the Afghan War

“It’s an incredible honour and I’m truly pleased with it and pleased with the fellows I used to be with that day, however I fight with it occasionally,” Peel mentioned.

Jon’s mom Anne, who lives in Nova Scotia, flew again to Penticton to be the Silver Pass mom for the Remembrance Day carrier in 2013. The city has arrange a number of tributes for her son, together with a memorial plaque. The Snyders additionally introduced 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 collaborating in a Nationwide Day of Honour rite at a Canadian Forces base in Esquimalt, B.C., on Would possibly nine, 2014.


David says his son would wish to be remembered as a excellent guy 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 almost certainly wish to be remembered.

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

“That man may just actually do anything else he sought after together with his existence, and that’s what he selected. He used to be almost certainly one of the vital perfect I’ve ever noticed do it.”

Peel says he used to take a look at Remembrance Day as a time to pay tribute to veterans from the First and 2d International Conflict — a collection of far-off names to honour from anyone else’s struggle.

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

“For me, annually, Remembrance Day is set remembering Jon Snyder.”

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