A San Antonian traveled more than 7,000 miles to become one of few Americans to join the tip of the spear in fighting ISIS.
Josh James, a paramedic with Acadian Ambulance Services, left the comfort of home to volunteer with a Slovakian non-governmental organization, embedding within an Iraqi Special Operational Forces unit in Mosul.
He says that the experience gave him a view of the action almost nobody here in America has been able to see.
“Closer than anyone except American special forces,” James said.
In a period of two weeks, James says that he saw roughly 200 patients, both Iraqi soldiers and civilians. He says that about a quarter of them were children, with injuries from shrapnel, artillery, and even IED’s placed in schools and playgrounds by enemy militants.
“We had several armored up Humvees come in,” said James, recounting his worst day in the city. “They brought in six kids all at once, and a dad. The mom and little girl were the sole survivors of that family.”
But James says that what surprised him more than the savagery of the ISIS fighters was the heroism of the Iraqi forces fighting them in one of the most difficult urban environments possible.
“If you can imagine having to retake San Antonio building by building, that's what these guys are doing,” James explained. “The resolve of the Iraqi Special Forces is extremely high. Immediately, I felt like part of their family with the unit I was embedded with.”
And James says that family is extremely close to kicking ISIS out of town. With the help of American air strikes, training, and Special Forces on the ground, he says that he wouldn’t be surprised to see Mosul liberated in the next month or two.
And he plans to return one more time before they do.
“Part of the story of the Battle of Mosul is going to be about the Americans that came halfway around the world to save Iraqi lives,” James said. “It made me feel pretty honored to be part of that effort.”