Small but growing numbers of American, British, Canadian, and Australian veterans are volunteering to assist in the battle against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL/IS) in Iraq and Syria. Motivated to help Christian and other minority groups defend against the spread of Islamist terrorism in the region, they have traveled to Iraq and Syria to take the fight to ISIS. On the front lines, they assist beleaguered people with training, guidance, and combat.
A non-profit organization, Veterans Against ISIS, describes itself as being composed of “top qualified American veterans” volunteering their time and skills to defend the Christian and indigenous people of Iraq and Syria. A GoFundMe page has been opened to raise money for the group. It was founded by Sean Rowe, a U.S. Army veteran and Florida native, who served two tours in Iraq. Seemingly alluding to President Obama’s foreign policy, he said, “The need, the void of leadership should be obvious, should be astounding.” Rowe told Jesse Lee Peterson, “They need help over there. People are being slaughtered over there, and the international community seems to be doing nothing.” Rowe stated he had over thirty qualified volunteers as of June.
U.S. Army veteran Brett Royales, born and bred in Detroit, served in Iraq in 2006 and 2007. He describes himself as a “Soldier of Christ” and left for Iraq to protect Christian minorities under threat of ISIS. When ABC News asked him, “Why you?” he responded, “Why not me?” Royales said he joined the Assyrian Christian militia to assist them in defending their land and way of life. Louis Park, a retired U.S. Marine and veteran who served in Afghanistan, was the first to be recruited by Royales. Park said, “I know that if [IS] is allowed to stay here, we will see violence in the United States, as well, eventually. So I’m protecting my homeland too.”
Dillon Hillier, a retired corporal in the Canadian Armed Forces, veteran of the Afghanistan mission, and son of Conservative legislator Randy Hillier, spent three months in Iraq fighting alongside Kurdish forces. After Hillier facilitated his own volunteership with assistance from his Peshmerga contacts. Following his departure to volunteer to fight ISIS, a Canadian non-profit organization, The 1st North American Expeditionary Force was established. It seeks to recruit military veterans to assist in “capacity building” for Kurdistan Regional Government Forces and to assist them in defending against ISIS.
Eight former British servicemen, among whom include some Special Forces veterans, have also volunteered to assist Kurdish resistance to ISIS in Syria. Calling themselves the International Fighting Force, they are informally known as the “ISIS Hunting Club.” Members of the group claim to be fighting for “freedom and democracy” and combating the barbarism of ISIS.
Former reservist in the Australian Army, Ashley Jonhston, was killed in February while fighting Islamic terrorists in Syria. He became the first known Western ex-military volunteer to die while fighting with the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit. He was twenty-eight years old. Former British Royal Marine Konstandinos Scurfield was also killed in March while fighting Islamic terrorists in Syria.