The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) controls a significant amount of territory across Iraq and Syria. ISIS is well-trained and equipped, and is the wealthiest terrorist organization in history.
It adheres to a distorted and fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, and has employed brutal tactics throughout its rapid advance.
Following the release of videos featuring the gruesome beheadings of American journalists, the United States responded to ISIS with airstrikes in Iraq.
This effort has expanded into a much wider campaign, resulting in the creation of an anti-ISIS coalition made up of more than 60 nations.
President Obama promised "no boots on the ground" in Iraq
At the moment, the United States continues to lead airstrikes against ISIS, but has insisted that it will not employ boots on the ground. With the memory of the 2003 Iraq War still fresh in the minds of politicians and citizens alike, Obama's resistance isn't at all surprising.
However, many agree that while the airstrikes are helpful, they're not doing enough to slow the advance of ISIS. This is particularly true in Kobani, a key town located on the border of Syria and Turkey.
Kobani is home to a large population of Kurds, a distinct ethnic group prevalent in Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran. ISIS poses a significant threat to the Kurds, which is precisely why the United States has stepped up efforts to support Kurdish forces in their fight against these terrorists.
At present, the Kurds have been able to delay the terrorists' advance, but the situation remains tense and Kobani could fall.
To be honest, though, there is a small number of American military advisers in Iraq at the moment, but nothing compared to the 2003 invasion. Likewise, as the United States has learned the hard way, intervention can often exacerbate the situation.
Three American veterans are already in Syria fighting ISIS
Despite the fact that President Obama promised no boots on the ground, several American veterans are already in Syria fighting against ISIS on their own accord.
They have joined forces with the Kurds, who have proved to be extremely fierce in their efforts to quell the advance of ISIS.
At the moment, there are various reports about the number of Americans who have joined Kurdish forces against ISIS. However, there are three veterans already in Syria for certain, all with previous military experience.
It's not clear how the government might treat these individuals if they try to return to the United States. However, all of them seem dedicated to staying for as long as it takes.
The Kurds are one of the most progressive groups in the Middle East. They're religiously tolerant, champions of gender equality and believe in democracy. So it's not surprising that Americans would want to fight alongside them.
Meet the three veterans who volunteered to fight one of the fiercest terrorist organizations the world has ever seen:
Jordan Matson: Wisconsin native and Army veteran
Jordan Matson is a 28-year-old Army veteran. He is currently fighting alongside the People's Protect Army (YPG), a Kurdish military force in Syria.
Even though he was wounded shortly after arriving in Syria, he says that he's ready to stay "until the end." Likewise, he's using Facebook to communicate with other Americans enthusiastic about joining the fight.
"I'm ready to stay until the end" Jordan Matson, #Wisconsin, a US military veteran fighting #ISIS in #Syria for #YPG pic.twitter.com/9Jl4OtAQA0 — 't Kieken (@tKieken123) October 23, 2014
Matson briefly served in the US Army in 2007, but never saw combat. It's apparent that he's experienced severe mental distress in the past, attempting suicide at one point. Reports claim that his early discharge from the army might have been related to all of this.
Friends of his say that he was always looking for something -- a cause to be a part of. When ISIS beheaded the American journalist James Foley, he found that cause and traveled from Chicago to Turkey and into Syria.
Since joining the fight, he's become a popular figure on Facebook for both Americans and Kurds.
Jeremy Woodard: Mississippi native and veteran of The War On Terror
Another American brother "Jeremy Woodard" from Meridian, Mississippi fighting together with Kurdish YPG against ISIS. pic.twitter.com/PSQZQjVD10 — Yavuz.C (@yave145) October 20, 2014
Jeremy Woodard has only been in Syria for about a month, but has already killed two members of ISIS. He says that he feels no remorse for this whatsoever:
They kill innocent people daily. They rape women and children and sell them into slavery. Killing an Isis [Islamic State] member, to me that's doing a good deed to the world. All of them need to get wiped out. You can't talk to people like that. There's no reasoning at all. There's a war and we have to eliminate them.
Like Matson, Woodard is 28 years old and is also fighting alongside the YPG. He's also an army veteran, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
According to him, ISIS is a much more formidable foe than he's encountered in the past, characterizing Al-Qaeda and the Taliban as "baby units" in comparison. Woodard attributes this to ISIS' funding, training and access to weaponry.
The Kurdish forces he fights with refer to him as "Sipan," and he seems very content to be helping their cause.
Brian Wilson: Ohio native and Air Force veteran
Brian Wilson, 2nd American to join #Kurdish YPG in fight against #ISIS pic.twitter.com/aqFX2pJZvV — Anna Ahronheim (@AAhronheim) October 7, 2014
Brian Wilson describes himself as a 43-year-old divorcé and the father of two children. He's from Ohio. Like Matson and Woodard, he's currently among the ranks of the YPG although he hasn't seen any combat yet.
According to reports, Wilson is an Air Force veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm. He also claims to have served 16 years in the sheriff's office in Ohio, making him well-prepared for combat.
Wilson was inspired to join the fight for a number of reasons, but is particularly fond of the Kurdish mentality, recently stating:
I knew of the Kurds' plight from long ago, and not just that of those in Syria. ...These guys are not only fighting ISIS [the Islamic State] but, unlike other armed groups in the region, they also talk about democracy and human rights... Not just for the local Kurds but also for the Arabs and Christians living in the region.
Wilson is quite content with his decision and says he plans to stay for "as long as they [the YPG] need me."
He is concerned about the lack of supplies, however, and claims that the YPG needs more advanced weaponry and medical supplies if they are to be successful against ISIS.
Wilson is also confident that more Americans will be joining the cause soon.
That said, we may see a wave of American veterans traveling to Syria in the very near future, regardless of the government's approval.
Photo Courtesy: Facebook