Saying he "heard God's call" after being moved by a television report about minority Yazidis trapped by ISIS fighters on Mount Sinjar, Dean Parker, 49, originally from West Palm Beach, decided this past November to join the Kurds in their fight against the ISIS jihadists in Syria.
Parker, who has no military experience whatsoever, was working as a surf instructor in idyllic Zancudo, Costa Rica, when video clips of ISIS attacking the Yazidis moved him to put down his surfboard and join the Lions of Rojava fighters -- part of the Kurdish People's Protection Unit, known as the YPG, in their mission to protect the Syrian people.
Parker told MailOnline video of women and children fleeing their homes because of ISIS attacks drove him to what most American's would never dream of in this day and age, volunteering to pick up and fight for the Syrian people:
"When ISIS was attacking the Yazidis and they had fled to the mountain, an Iraqi helicopter with a Western journalist went to drop water," he told MailOnline. "Women and children rushed in and started piling into the chopper. The cameraman filmed this one mother holding her 10- or 11-year-old son. She was crying, holding him," he said. "He was looking at the camera and that look of sheer terror in his eyes overwhelmed me with emotions I have never felt before."
"The only way to try to explain this, is that I heard God's call," he wrote. "The Kurds are the most amazing people, I'm so very blessed. I'm not much for words except I love you all my friends, I'm in very good hands."
Unbeknownst to his family and friends at the time, Parker arrived in the Kurdistan region of Iraq on October 28, they weren't aware of his life-changing decision until when he posted a statement on his Facebook page on November 2.
Parker's Facebook is littered with updates on his journey,pictures of children and families he encounters in the towns he's helping protect, and articles pertaining to the Kurds fight against the Islamic State. It seems as if staying connected and reaching loved ones back in the states hasn't been too much of an issue -- he even had an opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.
As one would guess the first reaction to his message that he was in Syria to fight didn't exactly go over well on Facebook, but as Parker has kept people updated, friends seemed to accepted his choice, and routinely send their support.
"I can't tell you how good it is to see you looking so strong and healthy," one follower of his story wrote on Facebook. "Your determination to make a difference just shows your heart and qualities. Your family and friends are so very proud of you." Another wrote, "You are our HERO. Stay Strong. Stay Healthy. Stay Humble. Duck when necessary.''
Parker told the Daily Mail he anticipates fighting for a year or two more, or until ISIS were pushed out of Kurdish land; but even if the fight ends, he may continue living there for the foreseeable future. "Maybe I'll stay and live here afterwards. The Kurds are the most gracious, respectful people I have ever met. We are family now. I am so honored to be here.''
But one thing that promises to stay the same: Parker is still a surfer at heart. He says once ISIS is defeated he plans on surfing the Black Sea. "I will always surf." he said.
You can take the Floridan out of Florida, but you can't take the Florida out of a Floridian.
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