LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A U.S. Army soldier who fled to Canada rather than return to Iraq has turned himself in to military authorities at Fort Knox, his attorney said Tuesday.
But Kyle Snyder called his lawyer Tuesday afternoon to say the Army wants to send him back to his original unit at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., said attorney James Fennerty of Chicago.
Snyder, a former combat engineer, left the United States in April 2005 while on leave to avoid a second deployment to Iraq.
Fennerty said he had reached a deal with Army officials that would allow Snyder to be processed back into the Army at Fort Knox and then be discharged. But he said Tuesday afternoon that the Army wants to send Snyder back to his Missouri unit where commanders there can determine his future.
After arriving at Fort Knox Tuesday afternoon, Snyder refused to sign a form that would have hastened his return to his unit, said Fennerty, who negotiated the discharge of another war deserter from Kentucky earlier this month.
"We wouldn't have brought him back here if we knew this was going to happen," Fennerty said.
Snyder, 23, of Colorado Springs, Colo., had trained as an engineer with the 94th Engineer Battalion, but he said he was put on patrol when he got to Iraq in late 2004, something he said he wasn't trained to do.
Snyder said Tuesday morning that he was nervous about his return and understood that some people may not agree with his decision to desert the Army.
"I don't know how the American people are going to take the things I am saying," Snyder said.
Fennerty said that the deal he reached with Army officials would have spared Snyder a court-martial. Fennerty said Tuesday afternoon he was trying to contact Army officials at Fort Knox to get Snyder's status.
Gini Sinclair, a Fort Knox spokeswoman, said she could not comment on Snyder's case.
Deserters whose units are deployed overseas are generally brought back to Fort Knox or Fort Sill, Okla., and assigned to a special processing company, she said. The Army then opens an investigation into the desertion.
She said deserters whose units are not fully deployed are returned to their original unit.
"The unit commanders make the decision on what should happen to that individual soldier," Sinclair said.
Fort Leonard Wood spokesman Mike Alley said Snyder was scheduled to be processed at the Army post in south-central Missouri, but he knew nothing beyond that.
"He is not here so I wouldn't know anything."
A Vietnam War veteran said Snyder should face a harsh punishment.
"He should have gone back and done his duty for his country, and then come back," said Jim MacDonald, an Air Force vet who lives in Louisville. He said many deserters in the Vietnam era never made it to the battlefield, unlike Snyder.
"Back when I was in the military, if you deserted, you got court-martialed."
But Gerry Condon, an anti-war activist who refused to fight in Vietnam, said Snyder and other military deserters should face no punishment.
"He's made a decision to come back and carry his struggle to the United States, and come back for his freedom," said Condon, director of Project Safe Haven, an aid group for U.S. war resisters.
Snyder said he began to turn against the war when he saw an innocent Iraqi man seriously wounded by American gunfire. He said the shooting was not properly investigated.
"I realized the Iraqi people were not accepting of the U.S. military," he said.
But he is not a pacifist, he said, and does not believe U.S. soldiers should immediately leave Iraq. He said he would like to see a phased pullout.
Snyder, who returned to the United States on Saturday, is the second Iraq war veteran to return to Kentucky after fleeing to Canada.
Darrell Anderson, 24, of Lexington, surrendered at Fort Knox on Oct. 3. Anderson was held for three days while his case was processed, then released with an other-than-honorable discharge. Fennerty was Anderson's attorney.
Snyder fled to Canada in April 2005 while on leave from the Army and applied for refugee status. He said he worked as a welder and at a children's health clinic while there but was also outspoken about the war, calling it "illegal and immoral."