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Meet the Texan Who Traveled Overseas to Fight ISIS

Texan Patrick Maxwell on patrol with Kurdish security forces in 2014.
Texan Patrick Maxwell on patrol with Kurdish security forces in 2014.

Wednesday was a fierce day of fighting in Iraq. The self-proclaimed Islamic State set off  21 car bombs in Ramadi as Iraqi forces  gained ground in Tikrit, re-taking control of a military hospital there.

Back in the U.S., the debate continues about how best to deal with the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. But for some veterans the time for talk is over. Unknown numbers of American war vets have taken up with foreign fighters battling ISIS.

The Texas Standard speaks to retired Marine Corp. Sergeant  Patrick Maxwell, who lives in Austin. Maxwell left the military with an honorable discharge in 2011. More recently he was a volunteer fighter with the Kurdish Peshmerga forces.

Maxwell says doesn't necessarily disagree with the U.S.'s handling of ISIS in Iraq, but he says that his reasons for fighting the terrorists were more personal.

“I’m very libertarian in my beliefs and I don’t think we need to be committing U.S. boots to the ground to do another long war like that, " he says. "But myself as a private citizen – if I want to go take a vacation and shoot some terrorists in the process, that should be my own business.”

Although Maxwell said his experience was eye-opening, it wasn't as active as you would imagine.

“We weren’t actively seeking out the enemy,” Maxwell says. “There’s not a lot of incentive to go out and find the enemy and engage them, so [it’s] … sitting back and watching each other across a no-man’s land with trenches and flags set up.” 

Realizing they wouldn't be engaging in a large scale offensive, Maxwell returned to the U.S. in January, two months before his initially anticipated return home.  

“In a perfect world, back with a rifle in my hand and actually able to do something that I want to do? Yes, but I don’t think that’s the way it would play out. I think it would be back to the same way it was ­– that political correctness, 'let’s keep him out of the direct line of fire.' … I don’t foresee if I went back that it would’ve changed anything at all."

Copyright 2020 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Rhonda is the newest member of the KUT News team, joining in late 2013 as producer for KUT's new daily news program, The Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.