Sny­der’s hero­ism

The Prince George Citizen - - Opinion - Jamie HAM­MOND Col. (Re­tired) Jamie Ham­mond, OMM, CD, served around the world for 28 years in Canada’s in­fantry.

The peo­ple of Afghanistan have long used un­der­ground aque­ducts known as a karez or qanat to move wa­ter long dis­tances and pro­vide nour­ish­ment for their crops and fam­i­lies.

Dur­ing the op­er­a­tions in Afghanistan, there were al­ways ru­mours, and some ev­i­dence, of karezes be­ing used to store weapons and am­mu­ni­tion or to move in­sur­gents. There were how­ever, prac­ti­cal lim­i­ta­tions to us­ing them for any­thing but wa­ter trans­porta­tion due to their depth and the steep­ness of their walls as we dis­cov­ered af­ter June 7, 2008.

Capt. Jonathan Sny­der, a 26-year-old mem­ber of Princess Pa­tri­cia’s Cana­dian Light In­fantry from Pen­tic­ton and a Univer­sity of Vic­to­ria grad, was on his sec­ond tour of Afghanistan. He was later rec­og­nized for his brav­ery on that sec­ond tour with a Star of Mil­i­tary Val­our, Canada’s sec­ond-high­est award for brav­ery, for his lead­er­ship of a team as­signed to an Afghan com­pany that was am­bushed by Tal­iban in­sur­gents. A few nights af­ter that in­ci­dent, hum­ble and ded­i­cated, he was back pa­trolling across a con­tested area of grape fields dot­ted with karez shafts.

Sny­der stepped near the edge of a karez in the dark­ness and the ground gave way. He fell 20 me­tres down into the dark­ness and into wa­ter. His pa­trol mem­bers worked des­per­ately to re­cover him. A he­li­copter even­tu­ally car­ried him to Kan­da­har Air­field, where he was pro­nounced dead.

As his death was not “a di­rect re­sult of hos­tile ac­tion,” how­ever, Sny­der was in­el­i­gi­ble for the Sac­ri­fice Medal that was an­nounced later that sum­mer. He was, nev­er­the­less, pa­trolling at night in ter­ri­tory where an en­emy was ac­tive. As he was un­able to give away his move­ments, us­ing white light was not an op­tion and his death, though ac­ci­den­tal, was a di­rect re­sult of his op­er­a­tional ser­vice in Afghanistan.

A re­view of the pol­icy took place and with Sny­der’s case top of mind, the el­i­gi­bil­ity cri­te­ria for the medal were amended the next year to read “as a di­rect re­sult of a hos­tile ac­tion or ac­tion in­tended for a hos­tile force” and “as a re­sult of an in­jury or dis­ease re­lated to mil­i­tary ser­vice.” With time, Cana­di­ans have ac­cepted that all deaths and in­juries re­lated to an op­er­a­tion where a hos­tile force is op­er­at­ing de­serve recog­ni­tion. We have Sny­der to thank for that, a Cana­dian hero in ev­ery sense of the word.

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