An American activist who had previously played a role in anti-capitalist protests in the United States has been confirmed as having died in battle fighting against ISIL in Syria.
The 28-year-old Robert Grodt of Santa Cruz, California, had been operating as a volunteer medic for the Kurdish military group known as the People Protection Units, referred to by their initials in the local language as the YPG.
The death of Nicholas Alan Warden, 29, was also announced by the US-allied Kurdish militia. According to his father Mark, Warden, of Depew, New York, had served with the 101st Airborne Division from March 2007 to November 2011 before leaving the US Army for the French Foreign Legion, where he served for five years and completed nearly 50 airborne jumps.
In a video posted by the YPG, Warden said he traveled from Buffalo in February to fight the Islamic State group because of attacks inspired by the group in San Bernardino, California; Orlando, Florida; and Paris.
The Americans died in battle in Raqqa, the base of the Islamic State group in northern Syria, with Warden dying on July 5 and Grodt on July 6, the YPG claimed.
Grodt had been active in several political causes in the US, meeting his partner, Kaylee Dedrick at the 2011 Occupy Wall Street protests when she had been pepper sprayed by police. The pair had a daughter, Tegan Kathleen Grodt, who was born in September 2012 and was dubbed the First Occubaby.
Spike Murphy, who was Grodt’s boss while campaigning for Equality California in Santa Cruz and the Central Coast, told the Santa Cruz Sentinel newspaper his employee had been a passionate man who followed his heart.
“He lived very much in the moment. He would throw himself into something wholly without thoughts about that future for himself, which got him in trouble sometimes,” said Murphy.
The pair also worked together campaigning and supporting the America Civil Liberties Union, OXFAM and Amnesty International.
Grodt posted a video through the YPG in which he apologised to his daughter why he was away from her fighting overseas.
“My reason for joining the YPG was to help the Kurdish people and their struggle for autonomy within Syria and elsewhere,” says Grodt, shown wearing camouflage clothes and holding a rifle.