A 25-year-old mother of three left her North Carolina home for Iraq to help the Kurdish Peshmerga fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Samantha Johnston of Emerald Isle, N.C., spoke to WJZY last week about her decision to help the Kurds fight the Islamic extremist group. “It was a long and hard process, a lot of praying, but it initially started tugging at my heart back in August,” Johnston said. “That’s when the beheadings started happening, and I decided to dig into the information on what’s going on there.”
Johnston, who served in the United States Army from 2008 to 2011, said she was was inspired to help the Kurds last summer when ISIS attacks dominated the news cycle; subsequently, she got in touch with her contacts in Iraq.
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I dug and researched and learned who was here, who was real, and after talking to certain people for months and deciding I was going to come, they helped me plan everything with the Peshmerga.
“It was very hard, there are no words to express what I was feeling at that time,” Johnston continued, noting she had second thoughts even as she was going to the airport. “My family member drove me to the airport and she kept saying she can stop, that she can turn around, and I wanted her to, but at the same time I knew this was something that was important to me and I knew I needed to come and help in any way, but it was terrible, I hate remembering that trip.”
“It was my choice, it was something that I decided and prayed about, and luckily, my family, they don’t support me being here, but they’re supportive, if that makes sense, I can’t thank them enough for all the help they are giving me watching my children,” she said. “If I didn’t have them, this wouldn’t be possible. Everybody has opinions and I try to brush it off and focus on my goal here. I told my children I was going to be gone for a while to help other little children, and they said okay.”
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Johnston told WJZY how serious the situation was once she arrived. “During the transfer from the airport to the base I was going to, it was three in the morning, they didn’t give me a flak vest or anything, they gave me a police officer bulletproof vest, they had a rifle ready for me and they said in case of attack, here’s what you need to do,” she told the Fox affiliate.
Every day we get up at four in the morning, we get in the Humvees, we go where we need to go, we train, and we train specifically for quick reaction, we come back, we clean our weapons, and prepare for the next day, but we are so close to Daesh [ISIS] that we are always on alert.
The 25-year-old added that tensions have risen since ISIS captured Ramadi last month. The city is just 60 miles west of Baghdad. Johnston was also asked if she felt the U.S. was doing enough to help in the fight against ISIS. “No, the United States is not doing enough, whatsoever,” she answered. “We are losing this fight, and we need the support from our government, America, and other western countries.”
ISIS doesn’t lie, they’re parading around with United States equipment that we supplied to the Iraqi army, it’s a slap in the face.
Finally, Johnston said she feels “embarrassed” after President Obama said earlier this month his administration didn’t have a “complete strategy” to fight ISIS. “[I’m] embarrassed for America. I don’t want to give my opinion on Obama,” Johnston said.
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