Operation unending obligation

Soldiers still supporting our United States

Whether they joined the Air force, Army, Navy, or Marine Corp, they went to fight against terror – on a mission – a commitment. Niko Pilcher, Benefits & Education Counselor with the Veterans Resource Center at Black Hawk College served in the Army and understands the mentality of a former soldier wanting to go back to fight against ISIS with Kurdish peshmerga forces.

Former Marine Jamie Lane in front of abandoned Iraqi humvee
Former Marine Jamie Lane in front of abandoned Iraqi humvee

“When they were deployed to Iraq, they felt like what they did actually did some good.” Pilcher explained. “They want to make sure the good doesn’t go to bad use.”
The Associated Press published an article in April describing three ex-military personnel who completed their service on good terms, but returned to the Middle East as private citizens to continue the fight. Initially, as a military soldier, they may have been in Iraq battling al-Quada. Now they return to the battlefield to fight an even harsher combatant – ISIS.

The different men have various reasons for taking this task to heart. For some, it’s a means of dealing with PTSD. Others feel they are completing unfinished business. More are driven by the same moral obligation that took them to the Middle East in the first place. Even though it was a mission or a command directed by the U.S. Military, they took the obligation personally and don’t feel the work was completed when their deployment ended.

Former U.S. Marine Jamie Lane suffers with PTSD and returned to the Middle East for two reasons. “In order to aid my recovery from PTSD,” Lane explained, “I have taken it upon myself to fight on my terms, against an enemy I know is evil.”

Scott Curley is another U.S. veteran of the Iraq war who was interviewed by the Associated Press. His motivation to return spiked after the Islamic State militants beheaded Peter Kassig, a former U.S. Army Ranger, who had returned to the area to provide humanitarian aid and help Syrian civilians. “I’m just a man with a gun,” Curley stated, “but whatever little difference I can do, it could help.”

These soldiers are just a few who’ve been deployed to various locations and know from experience that territory can’t be acquired or maintained through current U.S. tactics alone. They understand that the U.S. is hesitant to put boots on the ground to fight this war; however, they also know that airstrikes and arms deliveries (as currently ordered by our government) are not enough.

Bruce Windorski, a former Army Ranger and ex-police officer, responded to people who view his choice to take this fight on as a form of extremism. “I’m not a mercenary or in love with killing people,” clarified Windorski. “I’ve lived through the loss of loved ones fighting on foreign soil. I have seen families with deployed loved ones. It’s hell on everyone involved.” Training Kurdish fighters with the Syria-based People’s Protection Units (YPG), Windorski says the he would rather see a “random Westerner” fighting alongside the Kurds than have another full-scale invasion.

Jordan Matson was a Private First Class in the United States Army who went to fight with the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG). He informed his family and friends that he was being hired by a private army to help in the war against the Islamic State.  The Journal-Sentinel reported that Matson left a post on Facebook stating he was injured in a battle but fine. “I was hit by a mortar during a six hour fire fight but I am fine,” wrote Matson. “I delivered an ISIS bastard to hell. Please keep me and the other Americans and Kurdish fighters in your prayers.”

Allowing Westerners to join the Kurdish forces has only been allowed since last summer when the self-proclaimed Islamic State closed in on their regional capital of Irbil. Peshmerga spokesman Halgurd Hekmat acknowledged, “During wartime, necessity imposed itself. It’s an extraordinary situation and it’s not a secret that the peshmerga wasn’t prepared for this battle.”

While American vets believe that the Kurds need as much help as they can get, it is not recommended that just anyone join the fight. Potential volunteers should not only have military experience, but should also have knowledge of the area they are going in to.

Other countries have former military personnel joining the fight against ISIS as independents as well. Erik Konstandinos Scurfield from Greece was killed in his personal battle against ISIS. In a speech given shortly after his death, it specifically stated that this soldier was not a mercenary.

They said that he wasn’t even an out of work soldier looking for adventure. He was a well-paid member of the Royal Marines, and left that position to fight against ISIS. A portion of this speech shares the thoughts and values of many Americans who’ve lost lives in this fight.

“Kosta was determined to make a difference, and although this is not a way that many of us would have had him choose, it was the way he considered the best for him and I am proud of him for finding the courage to do this. He went out to oppose so called Islamic State of course, but really, he went out to support the fundamental rights of every human being to live in their own country, with a government they have chosen rather than one imposed on them by religious ideology, the right to worship the God of their choice, in the way they choose, to celebrate their own culture and language, to read and speak freely, to make music and enjoy art or play football without fear of brutal execution. In other words, he was a humanitarian who, in his own words, wanted to help. “

Other countries joining in the fight include, but are not limited to, France, UK, Germany, Belgium, Scandinavia, Netherlands and Australia. Reasons these warriors provide include feeling a sense of brotherhood or that it’s a good cause to fight against ISIS. Many others have political or religious motivation to guide their determination. Some of these countries have laws in attempts to prevent citizens from going to fight with other countries, even if they are fighting for good.
The United States, at this point, does not have a law against citizens fighting with other countries against our enemies. However, the U.N. Security Council has issued the recommendation that all countries do so. “All countries should make it a serious criminal offense for their citizens to fight abroad with militant groups.”

“We have warned all U.S. citizens to defer all travel to Syria,” remarked State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki. “We also remain concerned about any citizen traveling to take part in military operations.”