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Meet The Wisconsin Army Vet Who's Fighting With The Kurds Against IS

American Jordan Matson has fought in northeastern Syria alongside the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).
American Jordan Matson has fought in northeastern Syria alongside the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

Twenty-eight-year-old Jordan Matson was working odd jobs in small-town Wisconsin when Islamic State (IS) gunmen overran Iraq's Mosul in June.

The U.S. Army veteran says that reports of IS militants' brutal assaults on Christians and minorities in the Iraqi town proved to be the turning point that prompted him to go to Syria and fight the extremist group.

"For over a year, people were being slaughtered by ISIS," the 28-year-old Sturtevant, Wisconsin, native told RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI), using another acronym for IS.

"Anyone who didn't conform to their way of life could either convert, be killed, or get driven off their land. So when Mosul fell and IS drove all the Christians and minorities from the town or killed them, I thought that enough was enough and I decided to come here to fight," Matson said via Skype.

For two months, Matson has fought in northeastern Syria alongside the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG). He said he decided to join the Kurdish militia after searching the Internet for a way to fight IS.

"I found that the YPG was the only force in the area that would let Christians and Muslims live in peace together so I decided to join them," he said.

WATCH: Jordan Matson talks to RFI on the Iraq-Syria border:

American Peshmerga Fighter: 'Let's Cripple IS'
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Matson, one of only four Americans known to be fighting alongside Kurdish militia forces in northeastern Syria, said the YPG received him with open arms.

"I've been getting nothing but love here, they have treated me like a member of their own family since the day I got here," he said.

Not long after his arrival in Syria via Turkey, Matson was hit by shrapnel from a mortar round during a battle in Rojava, taking injuries to his eye and arm.

He related how Kurdish locals took care of him while he was recovering in the hospital. Kurdish families would visit him there, bringing food to share with him and other wounded fighters, he said.

"There's a lot of love in the community. It's something you can't really find in the United States; it's very different and I love it," Matson added.

Matson, who has recovered from his injuries, is now in Kobani.

He said he and his fellow YPG fighters were "extremely thankful" to the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces who have recently come to the northern Syrian town to help in the battle against IS.

The YPG and Peshmerga are fighting closely together, he said. "It's a welcome relief during the fighting, we are fighting for the same cause."

While the reinforcements from the Iraqi Peshmerga have helped combat IS in Kobani, Matson believes more is needed from the United States and its international allies.

"To put an end to IS, we are going to need boots on the ground," he said. "If we increase the bombing campaign and put boots on the ground to help give support to the YPG fighters, it would help push IS back to the Syrian borders. Troops could save many lives here," Matson told RFI.

Although U.S. law enforcement officials say that it is illegal for Americans to join a Syrian militia like the YPG, CNN reports that Matson has been attempting to recruit more foreign fighters to the Kurdish militia via social media.

Kandal Amed from the YPG told RFI that other foreign fighters have already joined the Kurdish militia to fight against IS.

"Foreign fighters are in all fronts with the People's Protection Units. Germans and Russians, others, wanted to be part of the new spirit that was created for the peoples of the Middle East. Among our ranks, you will find Americans, Germans, and others, all men, but we expect the arrival of foreign women, too," Amed told RFI by phone from the Al-Ya'rubiya (Tal Kojar) checkpoint on the border between Iraq and Syria.

Amed also talked of YPG cooperation with Iraqi Peshmerga forces, including to rescue stranded Yazidis from Iraq's Sinjar Mountain.

"Now in the Sinjar Mountain there are families, civilians, and our comrades living in difficult humanitarian conditions. We talked to them by phone today," he said on November 5, "They suffer from the extreme cold, where during the last week about seven to eight children died because of the cold and hunger. We are now working with the Peshmerga forces to open a corridor to save these families."

-- Joanna Paraszczuk and RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq correspondent Simira Balay

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world.


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