'The Kurds Deserve Help': American Says He Was Wounded Helping Fight ISIS

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An Ohio man who is part of the small band of Americans volunteering to help Kurdish troops fight ISIS in Iraq told NBC News on Wednesday that he had been wounded by enemy fire.

In a Facebook interview from an Iraqi military hospital, Ryan Gueli said that he was thrown several yards in the air when he was struck by ISIS mortar fire. He said that he was bleeding profusely.

He said that he managed to run several hundred feet and get behind a berm and, covered in blood, to apply a tourniquet to his wounded right thigh. He said a Kurdish soldier helped him walk to a vehicle and told him: “Don’t worry, my friend.”

“If that soldier, who was as scared as I was, didn’t come for me, I’d be dead,” Gueli said.

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On Tuesday, NBC News followed a group of about 100 Kurdish troops, helped by half a dozen Americans, as they battled ISIS and sought to retake territory from the militants in northern Iraq.

There are believed to be 100 or more American volunteers helping the Kurds. Most are veterans of the U.S. war in Iraq, drawn back to the country and to the new cause of flushing out ISIS.

Gueli, who is from Carroll, Ohio, said that he was injured while the Kurdish forces were in “full retreat,” chased by ISIS and counterattacking with rockets as the militants attacked with mortars.

"My limbs were numb," he said. "I lost a lot of blood."

He said that he expected to be back stateside by Sunday, that he was in touch with family and friends and that he was being taken care of in the hospital, in the city of Sulaymaniyah.

“Just tell ppl the Kurds deserve help,” Gueli wrote in the Facebook interview. “Best ppl I’ve ever met.”


— Seán Federico-O’Murchú and Erin McClam