John was the kind of guy who wasn’t afraid to stand by his ideals even if the world was against him. I learned this about him very quickly from early on. We first met early in 2015, in Daquq at the Peshmerga’s 9th Brigade. He seemed eager to get into the action and mix it up.

I remember talking to him and stating something rather bluntly about what we were up against, and with a devilish grin he replied, “Well, that’s why we’re here, right? Fucking warriors.” It caught me off guard because of how quick he was to respond and how sure of himself he was.

Our first engagement together, he maintained a calm and analytical demeanor. Maybe a tad bit complacent, but when it was time to work, the man got to it.

I was perched in the turret of my Humvee, overlooking Zahgar village—a Daesh-held territory. From the moment we entered the opposing village to set up an overwatch for the bulldozer constructing a berm line, we came under fire.