He stood on guard for us.
Jonathan and Adam are also direct descendants of another Loyalist ancestor through their mother, Anne (nee Turner) Snyder, and her father, Colonel Malcolm Turner, born in St. John, New Brunswick, Jonathan and Adam's maternal great-grandfather being Major General Guy Roderick Turner, who was raised in Aroostook Junction, New Brunswick.
Captain Jonathan Sutherland Snyder UE, BA, S.M.V. died on 7 June 2008 while proudly serving his country in Afghanistan. Born on 20 December 1981, Jonathan attended Uplands Elementary School and graduated from Penticton Secondary School with a French Immersion Diploma in 1999. In his youth, Jon participated in a variety of sports, including track and field, soccer, Pen-Hi Laker basketball, skiing, snowboarding, rugby and boxing. At the age of 9, Jonathan enrolled in private voice lessons, participated in his first British Columbia Arts Festival in Kelowna in 1992, and was runner-up at the British Columbia Festival of Arts, held in Trail, B.C., in 1993. He performed in many community musical theatres, OSSA and Soundstage Productions that included roles in Grease and The King & I (Penticton Light Opera). He played the alto saxophone in his high school band, was a handyman, an avid reader and a dog lover.
From the age of 12, Jonathan was an army cadet, where he learned to play the bagpipes, obtained his National Gold Star and attended Outward Bound in Wales, UK. He was a staff cadet at Vernon Army Cadet Camp in 1998 and joined the Army in September 1999 as an ROTP candidate. Jon graduated from the University of Victoria in 2003 with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in English with a minor in Sociology. He was the top candidate in two out of three summer officer training phases prior to receiving his commission. Promoted to Lieutenant, Jonathan served in the First Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, in Edmonton, Alberta. He had three overseas missions in five years, including two to Southern Afghanistan. The first deployment was as a platoon commander in Afghanistan for eight months in 2006, where he was promoted to Captain; the second in Abu Dhabi (UAE) lasted three months in 2007; then he was back in Afghanistan, in the volatile Zhari district west of Kandahar City, beginning in February 2008.
Always wishing to better himself, Jonathan completed a military Parachuting Course and obtained his Scuba Diving certification. Jonathan was a keen traveller and managed to see many parts of Canada and the world during his short, but active life.
Throughout Jon's career in the Canadian Forces, he always excelled. During his nascent years in training, Jonathan topped his Phase III Officer Course, a gruelling dismounted platoon command course designed to test the physical and mental endurance of Canada's Infantry Officers. On joining the First Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry in 2003, he quickly garnered the respect of his peers and superiors through his unwavering professionalism. He was later selected to be the Battalion's Senior Subaltern, an official role that embodies the mind and spirit of the Junior Officers.
Jon served brilliantly as a Rifle Platoon Commander in C Company on Task Force ORION in 2006, his first deployment, facing furious gun battles with insurgents. He saw action at Sangin, in neighbouring Helmand province, as well as in the Panjwaii district of Kandahar and led his men decisively and courageously, from the front, during sustained action in Pashmul and Sangin, earning him a promotion to Captain just before he went home in August 2006.
He cautioned soldiers on the next rotation not to confuse all the local Afghans with the enemy moving among them.
"The people here aren't much different from the way people act back home in Canada if you're dealing with teenagers and little kids," he told his replacements in August 2006.
"There are a lot of similarities. I'd say, go in there with an open mind and treat people as you would back home in Canada and go from there."
Shortly after his return to Canada, Jonathan voluntarily competed as a solo member in the Canadian Death Race, an extreme competition conducted in twenty-four hours over one hundred and twenty-five kilometres of punishing and unforgiving terrain in the mountains of Grande Cache, Alberta. He was awarded the gold medal.
Supremely fit, tactically gifted and exceptionally dedicated, Jon was selected to be the First Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry's Senior Subaltern, entrusted with the safety of the Regimental Colours, along with a small group of select Corporals, Master Corporals, a Sergeant, a Warrant Officer and another Junior Officer, who comprised The Colour Party.
Acutely aware of the risks, Captain Snyder voluntarily re-deployed in February 2008 for an eight-month term to Southern Afghanistan with the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team (OMLT)that has Canadian officers training troops in the fledgling Afghan National Army. He was the leader of his four-man mentoring team, training about one hundred ANA soldiers.
Shortly after his arrival, on 26 February 2008 Captain Snyder performed life-saving first aid on several partnered Afghan National Army personnel after a rocket-propelled grenade was accidentally discharged by an Afghan soldier, deservedly earning Jonathan a Chief of the Defence Staff Commendation. His unwavering courage, uncompromising loyalty, technical proficiency and rare human character earned him the enduring respect of his partnered Afghan National Army personnel.
Corporals Baker, Ball and Bancarz, and Captains Peel and Snyder were ambushed by Taliban insurgents on 4 June 2008. Effectively pinned down from three directions, and under the most perilous circumstances, Captain Snyder did not waiver, exhibiting heroic leadership and gallantry under intense fire by mentoring his Afghan counterpart, refusing to undermine his peer. Jonathan was characteristically calm but decisive and left no man behind, personally co-ordinating the extraction of two Afghan National Army soldiers who had been mortally shot in the head. Corporal Ball led a two-man team across broken terrain to secure an extraction route that allowed for the execution of a fighting withdrawal by Captain
Peel and Corporals Bancarz and Baker. Because of their dedication, leadership and valour, many Afghan and Canadian lives were saved.
Three days later, on 7 June 2008, while conducting a security foot patrol in the volatile Zhari district west of Kandahar City, Captain Snyder fell into an irrigation well about 9:00 p.m., Kandahar time, in an area dominated by grape fields. Wells, known locally as karizes, are found in the area. They tie into underground irrigation ditches and can be quite deep. A crescent moon that night had offered only feeble light, not enough for a soldier to see his own hand in front of his face, much less the ground underfoot. Even with night vision gear, which all troops wear, the opening would appear only as a shadow.
Zhari district is a maze of rural fields and mud compounds and a hornet's nest of insurgent activity. Brigadier-General Thompson said the rescue effort was hampered by the lack of light and security in the area and even the terrain around the well. "The embankments are very soft," he said. "So you can imagine scrambling around the edges of one of those at night. Last night, the moon was a sliver and it was quite dark."
The weight of his equipment hindered Captain Snyder from being able to stay afloat as members of his patrol tried unsuccessfully to extract him from the well. Medical, engineering, along with search and rescue assets were rushed to the scene and Captain Snyder was lifted out of the well. He was evacuated by helicopter to the Multi-National Medical Unit at Kandahar Airfield but, sadly, was pronounced dead upon arrival.
Lieutenant-Colonel David Anderson of the First Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, said that Captain Jonathan Snyder is remembered by his regiment as "a natural combat leader who was fearless underfire and always pushed the envelope ... always looking for new challenges and ways to push himself."
"His troops looked up and admired him, not just because he was an officer, but because he was a very decent human being," said Master Warrant Officer Mark Pickford.
Major Ryan Jurkkowski said, "Captain Snyder never lost his humanity under the most inhuman of conditions. On one mission, in 2006, when his vehicle was hit by an IED, Snyder calmly gathered his men and then went to the nearest village to warn the elders of the explosive and to reinforce Canada's mission to help rebuild and bring peace to the region. Just an absolute beautiful thing to see ... Jon did epitomize the modern warrior spirit, the warrior ethos."
Captain Snyder and his Afghan interpreter formed a very close relationship of mutual respect for one another while maintaining a highly functional working relationship, just one example of Jon's ability to connect with, work with, and build respected relationships with others.
His mother remembered, that even as a preschooler, he loved to play soldier, dressing up in a camouflage suit.
"He always knew what he wanted," Anne Snyder said from her home in Halifax. "Since he was twelve years old, he wanted to be in the army. He always wanted to be in the Joint Task Force Two," the Canadian Forces special operations unit often involved in confidential missions.
Jonathan was hoping to start the JTF2 course in January 2009, once he passed selection in the fall of 2008 upon arrival back home in Canada. It was his ultimate goal within his military career to be a JTF2 member.
"If anything ever happened to him, he had no regrets because he was doing his job, and he felt it was a worthwhile one to help train the Afghan soldiers," said his mother.
Family, friends and colleagues gathered on Sunday, 15 June 2008 in the Military Hall of Colours at Beechwood Cemetery, 280 Beechwood Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario, to pay their respects to Captain Jonathan Sutherland Snyder UE. His funeral was held on 16 June 2008 in the Beechwood National Memorial Centre followed by interment in the National Military Cemetery. A Memorial Service was held in Leir House, Penticton, British Columbia, on 4 July 2008. Adam Snyder UE piped his fallen brother into the Service at Beechwood and again at the Penticton Service on July 4th.
On 26 June 2008 Captain Jonathan Sutherland Snyder was awarded the second highest Canadian medal for valour, the Star of Military Valour.
Military Valour Decorations are national honours awarded to recognize acts of valour, self-sacrifice or devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy. The decorations were approved by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1993. They consist of the Victoria Cross, the Star of Military Valour and the Medal of Military Valour.
The Victoria Cross is awarded for the most conspicuous bravery, a daring or preeminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty, in the presence of the enemy; the Star of Military Valour is awarded for distinguished and valiant service in the presence of the enemy; and the Medal of Military Valour is awarded for an act of valour or devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.
Jonathan and his high school sweetheart, Megan Leigh Stewart, daughter of Dennis and Beth Stewart of Penticton, British Columbia, met in Grade Six and started dating when they were sixteen years old, at the beginning of Grade Twelve. They were engaged and planned to marry in December 2008 in Jamaica. Jon proposed to Megan on Christmas Eve 2007 in Costa Rica with a ring he had bought for her while in Dubai six months earlier.
On behalf of the late Captain Jonathan Sutherland Snyder, his fiancee, Megan Leigh Stewart, received the Star of Military Valour from Governor General Michaelle Jean during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on 13 February 2009.
Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaelle Jean, CC, CMM, COM, CD, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, is the Honorary Patron of the United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada.
General Leslie said to Captain Snyder's mother on February 13th that her son had all the makings of a Senior Officer in the Canadian Army. Speaking to Junior Officers in Edmonton during an important Regimental orientation for its new officers in the fall of 2008, Colonel Hope, Jon's former Commanding Officer from the Task Force ORION, said, "in all you do, be like Jon."
indeed a true Canadian hero
Captain Jonathan Sutherland Snyder UE, BA, S.M.V. is greatly missed by his beloved fiancee, Megan Leigh Stewart; his father, David Boyd Jackson Snyder UE, CD of Penticton, British Columbia, a former reservist and high school English teacher; his mother, Anne Snyder, of Halifax, Nova Scotia; his brother, Adam Turner Snyder UE, of Taiwan; and Megan's parents, Dennis and Beth Stewart, of Penticton, British Columbia. Predeceased by his grandparents, Clifford and Margaret Snyder of Penticton, Colonel Malcolm and Frances Turner of Chester, Nova Scotia, Jonathan was surrounded by numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, soldiers and friends from across Canada and around the world.
Donations will be gratefully accepted for the Capt. Jonathan Snyder Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o Len Cox, Penticton Schools Bursary / Scholarships Foundation, 158 Eckhardt Avenue East, Penticton, British Columbia. V2A 1Z3.
I am deeply indebted to Anne and David Snyder UE, CD, the parents of Captain Jonathan Sutherland Snyder UE, BA, S.M.V., to his fiancee, Megan Leigh Stewart, and to Major Robert T. Ritchie for their assistance in writing this tribute. As Major Ritchie wrote to me, Captain Snyder was indeed a true Canadian hero.
CBC News reported on 8 June 2008--
'Thousands of soldiers lined up on Kandahar Airfield Sunday evening to bid goodbye to a Canadian who died Saturday night. Captain Jonathan (Jon) Snyder ... of Penticton, B. C., fell into a well during a night-time patrol west of Kandahar, said Brigadier-General Denis Thompson, commander of Canadian troops in Afghanistan ...
'They fight side by side beside us and they are certainly affected by this, 'said Colonel Jean-Francois Riffou, who is in charge of the mentoring program.
Canadian politicians mentioned Snyder's role in tributes released Sunday.
'He will be remembered as someone who worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Afghans to help bring security and stability back to their country, a key part of Canada's focus on training Afghan forces. "Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.
Major Doug Friesen prayed for Snyder at the airfield. "Let the light of hope banish the dark night of death and despair and may we rise to a new dawn where there be no more sorrow or suffering.'
'Snyder "s leadership under [ire in a recent fight saved both Canadian and Afghan lives, said Major Robert Ritchie, Commander of the Zhari district where the battle happened.
The force of coalition and Afghan soldiers 'was taking heavy fire on three sides, 'when Snyder rallied the troops and led them to safety. 'Because of his heroic leadership under intense fire, there are many Canadians and Afghans who are alive to fight tomorrow. ' Ritchie said.
Snyder was on foot patrol in a field in Zhari district when he tumbled into an open well the Afghans call a kariz, said Thompson.
He would have been wearing at least 34 kilograms [about 75 pounds] of equipment at the time, including a flak vest and helmet.
Thompson said the well Snyder was trapped in may have been as deep as 20 metres [over 65 feet--the equivalent of a six-storey building]. The rest of his patrol tried desperately to rescue him as they radioed for help.
Snyder was the 85th Canadian soldier to die in the war-torn country since 2002. He leaves behind a fiancee, his brother and sister-in-law, and his parents."
David B.J. Snyder UE, CD, visited Old Newgate Prison in Simsbury, East Granby, Connecticut, in August 2005, where his Loyalist ancestor, Adam Snyder UE, was incarcerated during the American Revolution. David's article is published in this Spring 2009 issue on pages 19 to 23.
By Robert C. McBride UE, B.Sc., M.Ed.
UELAC Central Eastern Regional Vice-President