An Iowa soldier returned to Iraq last month to help train the Kurdish army of northern Iraq in their fight against ISIS. Asked why he’s placing himself in harm’s way in the fight against ISIS he said, “It’s better than sitting here on the couch watching news feeds of Christians getting killed and Muslims getting killed for no reason.” Also, news outlets are reporting that another American man, who believed it was “God’s will” he fight ISIS, was killed fighting alongside Kurdish forces. Watch the interview with the Iowa soldier, Ryan O’Leary, below.
The Iowa soldier who headed to war in Iraq twice previously with Iowa National Guard is now volunteering his services to the Kurdish army against the wishes of the State Department, FBI and his family. O’Leary says he decided to head back to Iraq to join the fight against ISIS is that the people of Kurdistan stood with the United States in the Iraq war that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein. Now, the Iowa soldier feels like our government is abandoning the allies that supported us in our war efforts. Until ISIS began its invasion of the region last year, Kurdistan was a stable region.
“ISIS isn’t just a fight for them, it’s a fight for all of us,” he said. “We need to help them out, and we’re not doing it. … The only thing I’m getting out of it is knowing that I’m helping make change in a country that deserves it and for a people that deserve it.”
**Update to this Story** – In related news, we just learned that American Keith Broomfield was killed while in Syria fighting against ISIS. According to NBC News, “A State Department official confirmed to NBC News that Broomfield, 36, was killed in Syria. The official did not provide further details, saying only that the State Department was in touch with his family.” Read more about Broomfield and his decision to go to Syria and fight ISIS here.
Iowa Soldier Not Breaking Any Laws
According to the report in USA Today…
FBI agent Brian Endrizal said it’s not illegal for Americans to travel to Iraq and help the Kurds. But it’s also not advisable for people to do what O’Leary apparently is doing, he said. “They could be captured. They could be killed. They could be used as hostages,” he said.
Endrizal said his agency would like O’Leary to contact the American embassy and consider returning to the United States. “Our biggest concern is that he comes home safe and soon — but who knows when that’s going to be?” the agent said.
The Iowa soldier is also aware that what he is doing is endangering his military career. O’Leary knows that he could be tossed out of the U.S. military and certainly lose his benefits – including medical treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
As we’ve reported in the past, U.S. veterans – along with veterans from other countries – have travelled to join the fight against ISIS. This is the first time we’re reported on someone still serving doing this.
Iowa Soldier Speaks with the Des Moines Register