Frame 0004
Texan Explains Motives for Joining Ku...
Tal Tamer
By TTM Contributor 33
09 Mar 2015

Tal Tamer, Syria
March 7, 2015

George, who declined to give his last name but prefers to go by Fat Jack, sold his possessions in San Antonio, Texas and bought a plane ticket to join Kurdish forces battling ISIS in the Hasaka province of Syria, a strategic village near the Iraqi-Syrian border whose Christian, Kurdish, Assyrian and Arab inhabitants had mostly fled. Perturbed that "no one was doing nothing" to stop the spread of the militant group and curious to know "how a normal person would come to fight evil", he joined the YPG.

Though Fat Jack admits there are sizable military and cultural differences between Americans and Kurds, and that the language barrier has been substantial, he also says that he decided to join the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) because they were "good" people whom "he could trust."

SHOTLIST AND TRANSCRIPT

Wide of town and YPG flag
Various of female and male Kurdish fighters near Humvee
Traveling of YPG vehicle passing a checkpoint
Wide of female and male Kurdish fighters
Wide of town and fields. NAT Sound: Gunshots
Wide of ‘Fat Jack’
Various of town and fields
Wide, R-L pan of ‘Fat Jack’ driving off in a pickup truck with YPG flag
Wide of fighter going into armored personnel carrier with YPG flag
Wide of tank with YPG flag
Wide of ‘Fat Jack’ getting into a pickup truck with YPG flag
Wide of fighters near YPG vehicles
Wide of ‘Fat Jack’ parking pickup truck
Wide of tank with YPG flag. NAT Sound: Gunshots
Wide of ‘Fat Jack’ stepping out of a pickup truck with YPG flag, talking to Kurdish fighter

SOUNDBITE (English, Man) ‘Fat Jack’ American volunteer with the YPG
03:42 - 07:41

  • Your name and where you are from.

  • I go by Fat Jack, my American nickname. I’m from San Antonio, Texas.

  • Why did you decide to come here?

  • The only way I know how to fight Daesh [ISIS] with people I could trust.

  • How did you see the situation here in Rojava [Syrian part of Kurdistan] during the clashes?

  • Originally since I’ve been here? I heard about Daesh in the media for a long time. Nobody was doing nothing. On the internet, I found out about the YPG. I started doing my homework. That’s how I got... I sold my stuff, bought a plane ticket and came on.

  • Can you talk about the situation more? About Rojava, the people here? The clashes?

  • Well there’s the culture difference that’s kind of a… wow! But the people are good people. The language barrier has been a bit of a problem. The people here, you know, they’re nice people. That’s the reason I came with the YPG. I trust them; they’re Kurdish, their reputation… so that’s how I came here just to… simply to fight Daesh.

  • And how did you decide to participate [with] the YPG against Daesh?

  • I guess I’ve seen a story of an American that came over. That night I was like… wow! You’ve got lunatics from all over the world that come to join Daesh, and you always wonder how these lunatics from all over the world come together. Much less find one more, but how do you find thousands? And then I was wondering how would a normal person come to fight evil? About three days later, that’s when I found the story about an American that came over. That’s how I ended up here.

  • Your last message to the world – if you want to send a message to the world or say anything.

  • Daesh has to be stopped. I mean, no matter where you are; what country or religion; your politics, murder and rape is evil. I mean in Daesh they murder… they rape and murder… they murder children and they would be speaking God’s name in their mouth while they murder. And just…

  • Can you please describe the clashes now in Tal Tamer?

  • From my point of view, it’s different. Our militaries are different. It’s just different. I don't know how to....”

Various of Kurdish fighters and military vehicles

Frame 0004
Americans Fight Alongside pro-Russian...
Donetsk, Ukraine
By KatArgo
22 Feb 2015

Two Americans from texas have been fighting for the pro-Russian rebels at the Donetsk Airport, where some of the worst fighting in eastern Ukraine have occurred. 

"Texas" is a communist, who came to Donetsk from Texas to help the Donbass militia fight off the Kiev government. He is a veteran of the US Army, where he was a combat engineer and now serves as an explosive expert with the Sud Vremini (Essence of Time) Battalion. "Jackhammer" was born in Moscow, but grew up in Texas. He has no military background, but once had contracts with the police force before coming to Donetsk. He subscribes to no political party or ideology, and says he would leave Donbass if the Kiev-backed military stopped fighting in the civilian centers. He wants a peaceful resolution between the Novorussiya government, and the Kiev government, and says that even if Novorussiya does not separate, and chooses to remain a part of Ukraine, he will leave Donbass.

Grad rockets can be heard in the background of the interviews.

Frame 0004
Americans Fight Alongside pro-Russian...
Donetsk, Ukraine
By KatArgo
22 Feb 2015

"Texas" is a communist, who came to Donetsk from Texas to help the Donbass militia fight off the Kiev government. He is a veteran of the US Army, where he was a combat engineer and now serves as an explosive expert with the Sud Vremini (Essence of Time) Battalion.

Grad rockets can be heard in the background of the interview.

Frame 0004
Americans Fight Alongside pro-Russian...
Donetsk, Ukraine
By KatArgo
21 Feb 2015

"Jackhammer" was born in Moscow, but grew up in Texas. He has no military background, but once had contracts with the police force before coming to Donetsk. He subscribes to no political party or ideology, and says he would leave Donbass if the Kiev-backed military stopped fighting in the civilian centers. He wants a peaceful resolution between the Novorussiya government, and the Kiev government, and says that even if Novorussiya does not separate, and chooses to remain a part of Ukraine, he will leave Donbass.

Grad rockets can be heard in the background of the interview.

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Friends in Low Places 4
Houston, Texas
By Spike Johnson
28 Sep 2013

Fisherman catches cat fish from Buffalo Bayou, skinning it with pliers, and frying it in oil.

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WestTX Union Pacific railroad (3 of 14)
Texas, USA
By Cécile Fandos
19 Apr 2013

Les dommages causés à la voie ferrée ont obligé l'Union Pacific à dépêcher des équipes chargées d'inspecter et réparer les rails.

Because of the damages caused to the railway, the Pacific Union had to send assessment teams to examine and repair the rails.

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WestTX I-35 (2 of 14)
Texas, USA
By Cécile Fandos
19 Apr 2013

Le boom économique texan et la hausse des échanges avec le Mexique oblige à élargir l'autouroute 35 au long de laquelle se trouve West. La commune désormais plus en mesure d'en profiter pleinement.

Given the economic boom in Texas coupled with increased exchanges with Mexico, Highway 35, along which is located West, had to be enlarged. The town is now able to fully benefit from it.

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WestTX Groundworks (1 of 14)
Texas, USA
By Cécile Fandos
19 Apr 2013

Les engins de chantier destinés au déblayage des décombres se croisent dans les rues menant au site de l'explosion.

Engines brought to clear out West are all around town.

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WestTX Waco Chamber of Commerce (9 of...
Texas, USA
By Cécile Fandos
19 Apr 2013

La façade de la chambre de commerce de la ville voisine de Waco, à laquelle est rattachée West, ne laisse rien paraître de l'agitation qui y règne après l'explosion du 17 avril, mais les acteurs de l'économie locale ont mobilisés pour que la région reste dans la course.

Waco Chamber of Commerce's facade isn't showing signs of agitation. But inside, the local economy is mobilizing to mitigate the impact of the West blast so that it can kepp on participating in the Texas economy boom.

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WestTX (8 of 14)
Texas, USA
By Cécile Fandos
19 Apr 2013

West est une commune essentiellement rurale, dont l'essentiel de l'activité tourne autour du commerce et de l'agriculture. D'où la présence d'une usine d'engrais en pleine ville.

West is an essentially rural town. Its activity mostly revolves around agriculture and business, hence the presence of a fertilizer plant right in the middle of the city.

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WestTX Czech-American insurance compa...
Texas, USA
By Cécile Fandos
19 Apr 2013

La société tchéquo-américaine RVOS dirigée par Joe Liles (droite) dans le secteur assure environ la moitié des maisons de West, qui est à 75 % tchèque selon l'ambassadeur de la République Tchèque auprès des Etats-Unis. Ne sachant pas quand il pourra accéder aux domiciles de ces nombreux clients, l'assureur est donc venu en camping-car et reçoit les victimes de l'explosion dans cette espace.

The Czech-American company RVOS, directed by Joe Liles (right) in this area, insures almost half of the houses in West. According to the Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the United States, 75% of the city is Czech. Since he does not know when he will be able to access the houses of his numerous clients, the insurer came in a motorhome in which he receives them.

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WestTX bank (6 of 14)
Texas, USA
By Cécile Fandos
19 Apr 2013

Dans la principale banque de West, la queue au bureau des donations est plus longue que celle du guichet.

In West's main bank, more people are lining up for donations than at the regular counter.

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WestTX WestFest parking (5 of 14)
Texas, USA
By Cécile Fandos
19 Apr 2013

Le site du West Festival attirant près de 20 000 personnes autour de l'héritage tchèque de la commune chaque début de mois de septembre sert de parking aux bénévoles venus en nombre.

The site of the West Festival that attracts almost 20 000 persons around the Czech heritage of the community every year in September has been turned into a parking for the numerous volunteers.

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WestTX West Feeds (4 of 14)
Texas, USA
By Cécile Fandos
19 Apr 2013

Avec une douzaine d'employés, comme l'usine d'engrais ayant explosé, l'usine d'aliments pour bétail West Feeds est désormais le principal employeur de la ville.

With a dozen employees, just like the disappeared fertilizer plant, West Feeds is the city's main employer today.

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Economic Impact of the Explosion in W...
Texas, USA
By Mais Istanbuli
19 Apr 2013

The explosion of the fertilizer plant in West, Texas, occurred at the edge of Highway 35, a vital link for the North American economy, where the heart of Texas is booming. The loss of this plant is a blow that threatens Texas’ economic model, which is based on low taxes and low binding legislation for companies.

L'explosion de l'usine d'engrais de West, au Texas, est survenue au bord d'une autoroute vitale pour l'économie nord-américaine, au cœur d'un Texas en plein boom. Un coup dur qui questionne le modèle économique texan fondé sur des impôts faibles et des législations peu contraignantes pour les entreprises.

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WestTX Stockyards Cafe (14 of 14)
Texas, USA
By Cécile Fandos
18 Apr 2013

Au lendemain de l'explosion, le Stockyards Café situé au bord de l'autoroute a fermé pour centraliser les donations de la grande distribution et organiser leur répartition auprès des victimes. Comme l'ensemble des salariés, qui "ne se verraient pas rester chez eux et ne rien faire", Janis participe à l'opération. Elle a été rejointe par sa fille et son gendre. "Tout le monde essaie d'aider", commentent ces derniers.
On the day after the blast, Stockyards Café, located on the side of the highway, closed its doors in order to gather the donations of large retailers and organize their distribution among the victims. Like the other employees who "could not see themselves stay at home doing nothing," Janis participates in the operation. Her daughter and son-in-law have also joined. "Everybody tries to help," they said.

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WestTX Stockyards (13 of 14)
Texas, USA
By Cécile Fandos
18 Apr 2013

Les ventes de bétail programmées au lendemain de l'explosion ont été annulées et les lieux réquisitionnés pour l'organisation des points presse.
The livestock sales scheduled for the day after the blast were canceled while the site was requisitioned for press briefings.

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outside Czech Stop (12 of 14)
Texas, USA
By Cécile Fandos
18 Apr 2013

La vie continue au très populaire Czech Stop, dont les clients entrent et sortent au même rythme qu'un jour habituel. Mais à l'intérieur, comme dans la plupart des commerces du secteur, on leur propose de faire une donation à destination des victimes de l'explosion.

Life goes on at the popular Czech Stop where clients come in and out as on an ordinary day. Inside however, and like in most of the businesses of the area, they are offered to make a donation for the victims of the blast.

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WestTX furniture store (11 of 14)
Texas, USA
By Cécile Fandos
18 Apr 2013

Preuve que son propriétaire est présent, la lumière est allumée dans ce magasin de meubles du centre-ville de West tout proche du lieu de l'explosion. Mais ses vitrines détruites, il affiche fermé.

The light of this furniture store in West city center is on, attesting the presence of its owner. However, a closed sign has been put up since the shop front is destroyed.

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WestTX Waco construction company (10 ...
Texas, USA
By Cécile Fandos
18 Apr 2013

Les entreprises de construction de la ville de Waco voisine sont venues en nombre sécuriser les bâtiments encore sur pied après l'explosion. Débordés, les quelques artisans de la ville ne pouvaient faire face à la demande.
Numerous construction companies of the neighboring city of Waco came to secure the buildings still standing after the explosion. In West, the few craftspersons were overwhelmed and could not face the demand alone.

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Homelessness in Texas (6 of 9)
Houston, Texas, USA
By dennisyermoshin
02 Apr 2013

Cedric, on his usual corner, at McGowen and Smith, midtown.

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Friends in Low Places 9
Houston, Texas
By Spike Johnson
13 Dec 2012

Frog and Fred, Gulf war veterans, sit in the park near downtown.

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Friends in Low Places 10
Houston, Texas
By Spike Johnson
13 Dec 2012

Fisherman sits down to dinner in the cave that he shares with other vets, an HIV positive security guard, a circus worker, and his twenty cats.

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Friends in Low Places 11
Houston, Texas
By Spike Johnson
13 Dec 2012

Fisherman, Gulf War veteran, stands in the park he uses to rest in the day time.

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Friends in Low Places 16
Houston, Texas
By Spike Johnson
13 Dec 2012

Fisherman patches up Frog's head. Another veteran hit him in the head with a brick during a dispute over a bottle of vodka.

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Friends in Low Places 14
Houston, Texas
By Spike Johnson
13 Dec 2012

A catfish, caught by Fisherman, flounders on a rope in the Bayou.

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Friends in Low Places 13
Houston, Texas
By Spike Johnson
13 Dec 2012

Fisherman lights his way in his cave with a head lamp. He has no source of heat or light.

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Friends in Low Places 12
Houston, Texas
By Spike Johnson
13 Dec 2012

Frog, Gulf War veteran, sits in the cave he sleeps in beneath downtown Houston.

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Friends in Low Places 18
Houston, Texas
By Spike Johnson
13 Dec 2012

A bottle of vodka left by the bayou, beneath a veteran's temporary home.

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Friends in Low Places 5
Houston, Texas
By Spike Johnson
13 Dec 2012

Fisherman fries the catfish he caught in Buffalo Bayou in oil.

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Friends in Low Places 6
Houston, Texas
By Spike Johnson
13 Dec 2012

Laundry drying outside on the edge of Buffalo Bayou, beneath "the caves."

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Friends in Low Places 7
Houston, Texas
By Spike Johnson
13 Dec 2012

Fisherman feeds the twenty cats that he's raised from kittens. They live with him in his cave.

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Friends in Low Places 8
Houston, Texas
By Spike Johnson
13 Dec 2012

Beneath a bayou overpass, the entrance to a cave.

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Friends in Low Places
By Spike Johnson
13 Dec 2012

Houston, Texas, 2013. Buffalo Bayou, many homeless live along this stretch of water that runs through Houston's downtown.

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Friends in Low Places
By Spike Johnson
13 Dec 2012

Houston, Texas, 2012. Fisherman shows his personal possessions hidden in his cave. He has cooking supplies, fruit, fishing rods, clothing.

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Friends in Low Places
By Spike Johnson
13 Dec 2012

Houston, Texas, 2012. Frog shows scars from conflict. A bullet entered and lodged in his shoulder while serving as a Marine in the Gulf War. Without access to healthcare, he self medicates buying Hydrocodone illegally on the streets. He now admits he's addicted to the painkiller.

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Fear and Ammo in a Texas Suburb (26 o...
Dallas, Texas
By Spike Johnson
01 Sep 2010

The walls of a Texas Survivalist member's garage are plastered in American flags, obliterated target sheets and expired National Rifle Association cards.

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Fear and Ammo in a Texas Suburb (25 o...
Dallas, Texas
By Spike Johnson
01 Sep 2010

The immaculate barrack style bedroom of a survivalist group member, complete with camouflage pillow and ready-to-grab survival bag.

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Fear and Ammo in a Texas Suburb (24 o...
Dallas, Texas
By Spike Johnson
01 Sep 2010

The Texas Survivalists, a Survival group operating in the suburbs of Dallas, a mile and a half away from a middle school softball stadium.

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Fear and Ammo in a Texas Suburb (23 o...
Dallas, Texas
By Spike Johnson
01 Sep 2010

A survivalist group member reveals the ammunition he carries everywhere in his pistol. "On impact, the bullet compacts and starfishes around the hollowpoint, corkscrewing and ripping through organic tissue" he explains.