A Marine veteran who served in Iraq went back at his own expense – this time, he is there to fight ISIS.
Pete McKenna grew up in Richmond, Virginia and attended Benedictine High School. Upon graduation, he enlisted in the Marines and deployed to Iraq during OIF.
Eventually McKenna would leave the Marine Corps, but when he saw the damage ISIS was inflicting in areas that he and his fellow Marines fought to defend, and decided he had to do something about it.
According to the Daily Progress, McKenna began seeking ways to join the fight against ISIS. He knew there was a historical precedent during World War II when some Americans renounced their citizenship to fight Nazi Germany with other countries before the United States joined the war.
In January, McKenna decided to act on his idea. He used Facebook to connect with foreign fighters and was able to get in touch with a member of the Kurdish Peshmerga, a military force fighting ISIS in northern Iraq.
While he was conducting his search, McKenna was also training for battle by running, lifting weights, and shooting with Russian Kalashnikovs.
Originally McKenna had plans to travel to Iraq with a cousin who was interested in fighting ISIS as well, but a family emergency prevented him from joining.
McKenna packed first aid bags, maps, and clothes, and arranged a flight through Jordan and into Iraq.
He was driven to the airport by his father, Tom McKenna.
“He gave me a hug, we shook hands, and then I just watched him until he faded out of view,” said Tom McKenna, who works as a deputy commonwealth’s attorney in Chesterfield. “It was hard, not knowing if you’re going to see him again.”
McKenna arrived in Iraq in June and was picked up at the airport by a Kurdish Peshmerga soldier who drove him to the front lines near Kirkuk, the area where a Delta Force soldier died in October while trying to free hostages.
McKenna acknowledges that he is in a different kind of fight because he will be without the support of the U.S. military.
While the Peshmerga provide him with food and weapons, McKenna doesn’t receive a paycheck for his work. This also means he doesn’t have access to a medevac helicopter if he’s injured, so medics have trained everyone in his unit in basic first-aid.
Tom McKenna said his family is scared for his son’s safety and also proud of him.
“In some ways it’s easy to say it’s crazy, but I think of it more as noble,” Tom McKenna said.
Pete McKenna regularly updates his Facebook page with photos and information of what he’s doing if you’d like to keep up with him. ‘Rah, McKenna. Get some.
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So I have a lot of respect for this guy and what he’s doing. I fought in Afghanistan in 2013-2014, so I know he’s in hell right now. But just a little update: he’s a total asshole. I added him on Facebook and he got really offended because I was showing support. If you have better luck more power too you. But just a heads up.
Jeff, I’m sure I wasn’t directing that rant at you, and I certainly don’t mean to offend well wishers. Since that story broke hundreds of people have added me and been asking questions that a bit of simple research could answer, like “I want to fight ISIS, by the way what are Kurds?
I beg your pardon, and that of anyone else who might feel wrongly lumped into that set. I just can’t keep track of everyone at this point.