Specialist Darrell Anderson came back from Iraq nearly two years ago with a Purple Heart and an order for a second deployment. Instead, he fled to Canada where he’s been until this week. Specialist Anderson returned to the United States where he could face charges. He’ll be turning himself in to the military later today. He joins us on the line from Lexington, Kentucky. [includes rush transcript]
Army Medic Agustin Aguayo, Specialist Mark Wilkerson, Specialist Suzanne Swift, Lt. Ehren Watada, and Sgt. Ricky Clousing. Those are just some the American service members we have interviewed recently who are refusing deployments to Iraq. Well today, we bring you a new voice. Specialist Darrell Anderson came back from Iraq nearly two years ago with a Purple Heart and an order for a second deployment. Instead, he fled to Canada where he’s been until this week. Specialist Anderson returned to the United States where he could face charges. He’ll be turning himself in to the military later today. He joins us on the line from Lexington, Kentucky.
- Spc. Darrell Anderson, Purple Heart veteran of the Iraq war. Fled to Canada in January of 2005 and returned just this week. He is turning himself in to the military today.
AMY GOODMAN: Today, we bring you a new voice. Private Darrell Anderson came back from Iraq nearly two years ago with a Purple Heart and an order for a second deployment. Instead, he fled to Canada, where he’s been until this week. Private Anderson returned to the United States, where he could face charges. He’ll be turning himself in to the military later today. He joins us from Lexington, Kentucky. We welcome you to Democracy Now!
DARRELL ANDERSON: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us why you’re turning yourself in today?
DARRELL ANDERSON: Basically it was — I just couldn’t live up in Canada no more without work permits and healthcare and the support of my family, while dealing with post-traumatic stress from Iraq and everything. And also I feel that I want to put on my uniform and stand on a military base and resist the war, because it was something that I wasn’t strong enough to do before.
AMY GOODMAN: Why don’t you tell us when you went to Iraq, when you returned, and why you decided not to go back?
DARRELL ANDERSON: Well, it was just — as soon as I got to Iraq, it was obvious that everything we were doing there was wrong, and there was no justification of it. And I believe that if I returned to Iraq and followed military procedures and orders, that there is no way around it: I would eventually kill innocent people. And I believed it was my human right to choose not to do so, and it was my military duty to resist this war.
AMY GOODMAN: Where were you in Iraq, and at what point when you went to Iraq did you decide that you felt you couldn’t fight there anymore?
DARRELL ANDERSON: I arrived in Baghdad in January of '04, and it was in April of ’04, when I was ordered to open fire on a car of innocent civilians, and I refused. And my superiors told me that it was military procedures, if a car comes though a traffic stop, you are ordered to open fire. And I just didn't agree with our procedures we were doing there, ’cause if I followed them I would be killing innocent people.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, what happened?
DARRELL ANDERSON: I refused. They told me if I refused again, I’d be punished. But I was still a fresh troop on the ground, so no action was taken. And just events like that just kept occurring, until one day I saw a couple of my fellow soldiers get hit, and I pulled my trigger while pointing it at an innocent child. But my weapon was on safe, and then I realized what I was doing, and I just realized that no matter how good or [inaudible] you believe you are, when you’re there, that you’re eventually — you know, the evil in this is going to take over, and you’re going to kill people.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Private Darrell Anderson, you came back to the United States. You were deployed again. How did you escape to Canada?
DARRELL ANDERSON: Actually, I’m Specialist Anderson, I was a Specialist in the U.S. Army. It just — it came that — at the time I went AWOL there was no support in the U.S. There wasn’t that big of antiwar movements, and I couldn’t get support from the military to deal with the nightmares, and the only place I found support was in Canada through the War Resisters’ Support Campaign. And that was pretty much the only thing that saved my life at the time, with all the stuff I was going through.
AMY GOODMAN: How did you leave your base to even go to Canada?
DARRELL ANDERSON: Oh, I was home for Christmas leave in Kentucky from Germany. And it was then that I decided with my family that going to Canada was our best option. My family drove me to Canada through the night. So I was actually in Canada before I was even AWOL from the Army.
AMY GOODMAN: And how did you live in Canada over this last year and a half?
DARRELL ANDERSON: Working under the table, cheap labor, construction, cooking, just scraping by with — I also had support from the Campaign up there. I took a — I went to a psychiatrist a few times, but I just couldn’t afford the transportation to get there anymore. And so, I wasn’t living very well, but I had my freedom for the time I was there.
AMY GOODMAN: Darrell Anderson, you were wounded yourself in Iraq. Describe what happened.
DARRELL ANDERSON: It was — we were in a howitzer and one of my fellow soldiers took shrapnel from an RPG, and I took his place on top of the vehicle through a hatch, and it was like an hour or so later that two IEDs blew up, and I took shrapnel on my side. And I felt the burning, and I pulled the piece of metal out, and I saw the blood. And just like the guy before me, I fell back into the vehicle, taking all my gear off, you know, asking my fellow soldiers if I’m going to die, am I going to be okay? And once they decided — the sergeant said, "It didn’t go in. You’re going to be okay." And he went to take my place, and I grabbed him by his gear, and I pulled him down, and I went back up and stood my ground after I had been hit.
AMY GOODMAN: You won a Purple Heart for this.
DARRELL ANDERSON: Yes. I was awarded a Purple Heart when we returned to Germany. Some major pinned it on me, and there was a big ceremony and stuff like that. But it didn’t really mean much, 'cause the same guy that got hit the same day I did who was severely injured, he was up in his room, isolated from all the other soldiers, and they're putting me on display, because I was injured, but I was able to continue. So, as soon as they gave me my Purple Heart, it really didn’t mean anything to me, 'cause they weren't giving my friend his Purple Heart ’cause he was getting kicked out of the military.
AMY GOODMAN: So what happens to you today?
DARRELL ANDERSON: I turn myself in. I make my last stance, and I take whatever’s coming. The last couple of months I believed I was going to do a year or two in jail on my return, but through my lawyer talking to Fort Knox, they said that they’re going to release me in three to five days and not court-martial me and everything. So, right now, I’m kind of just hoping they stay to their word and I can get out in a week and start more counseling. But I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen ’cause the military is known for telling you one thing and doing another.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much for being with us. And we will continue to follow your case.