The Unknown American Heroes of Syria’s Civil War

RSS icon
Reddit icon
e-mail icon
by Macer Gifford
National Review
February 6, 2017
Americans have fought valiantly in support of the democratic movement in northern Syria. We should make sure their efforts weren’t in vain.
The Anglo-American hero Winston Churchill once said, “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” There is no better way to describe the impact that the March 2015 victory in Kobanî had on the war against the Islamic State. ISIS’s defeat in this north Syrian city will go down in history as the moment the group began to decline. There would be death throes over the subsequent years, as ISIS scored victories in places such as Palmyra and Ramadi, but the group’s rapid growth and aura of invincibility were be shattered in Kobanî by the heroic fighters of the YPG (Kurdish People’s Protection Units) and YPJ (Women’s Protection Units).
The liberation of Kobanî wouldn’t have been possible without the intervention of the American military. High in the sky, U.S. Air Force pilots killed hundreds of jihadists and annihilated their heavy equipment. American intelligence officials watched the heroic defense and, with growing confidence in their Kurdish allies, began to build closer military ties. The Kurdish fighters were surrounded, outgunned, and short on supplies. Refusing to surrender to the jihadists, many used up their bullets and ran at the enemy with their last grenade, dying in one final act of defiance.
What few in the West realize is that from the very beginning of this war, young Americans have been fighting against the Islamic State in support of the fledgling democratic movement in Rojava, the unofficially autonomous region that is home to Kobanî. One man, Keith Broomfield, was in Kobanî at the same time those U.S. jets circled overhead. This year, I met a man who knew Broomfield and described a terrible firefight on a hill outside Kobanî. With bullets cracking overhead and the fanatical screams of jihadists in his ears, Broomfield couldn’t have been further away from his hometown of Westminster, Mass. Those that knew him in the YPG describe an intelligent, easygoing man with a great sense of humor and a deep Christian faith that inspired him to help others.
During the firefight, while running between positions, Broomfield was shot in the chest and grievously wounded. His friend, a Kurdish man named Merdem, ran to his aid and pulled him into cover. As they lay there, with bullets snapping and cracking overhead, the hopelessness of their position struck Merdem: Without the knowledge or equipment to treat his friend, all he could do was try and stem the blood loss and wait for help. Merdem gently shook Broomfield and pleaded with him to stay conscious. Their eyes met. “You can’t die, heval,” Merdem said, using the Kurdish word for friend. “You’re my commander.” It was a private joke, shared a hundred times around campfires, over stoves, and on cold, nighttime guard duties. A smile passed over Keith’s lips and soon afterward he died in his comrades arms.

Read more

Article category: 
Rate this article: 
No votes yet