A small number of American veterans have decided to take up service again, this time to fight the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria, volunteering their time to assist the Kurdish security forces in their offensive against the militant group, The New York Times reported
"I am not enlisted anymore, but I'm still a warrior," Patrick Maxwell, a 29-year-old Iraq veteran and real estate salesman, who recently volunteered to take up arms against the Islamic State, told the Times.
"I figured if I could walk away from here and kill as many of the bad guys as I could, that would be a good thing."
The veterans are driven by a mix of motivations including outrage over the Islamic State's violence, boredom with civilian life at home, and disenchantment that the enemy they fought to defeat has experienced a resurgence, the Times said.
"More than anything, they don't like ISIS and want to help," Matthew VanDyke, an American filmmaker who has spent time with four American veterans covertly training a militia of Assyrian Christians in northern Iraq, told the Times.
More veterans are being recruited to help, some of whom are attracted to using the combat skills they developed but that aren't getting any use from now that they've left the service.
"A lot of guys did important stuff overseas and came home and got stuck in menial jobs, which can be really hard," VanDyke said, according to the Times. "We offer them kind of a dream job, a chance to do what they are trained to do without all the red tape and PowerPoints."
It is estimated that more than 100 American citizens are fighting alongside the Kurdish militia in Syria, though there is no official count.
U.S. officials have pressured the peshmerga to try to keep Americans from joining the fight, American military veterans who have been in Iraq, told the Times, and the peshmerga after being contacted by the Times has released a statement saying it would no longer accept foreign volunteers. Other militias are however accepting volunteers.
Beyond being killed, captured, or kidnapped, there are risks for those who decide to join the fight against the Islamic State, the Times said. Some could get caught fighting with a group that is viewed by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization.
"These war zones are often foggy, and tough to tell friend from foe," Neil MacBride, a former United States attorney, told the Times. "U.S. citizens could risk running afoul of U.S. material support to terrorism laws if they took up with the wrong group."
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