Most reading this have probably seen at least one video of a kitted up older American man with a New Jersey accent strutting around Ukraine with a Kalashnikov. It was known that Americans had volunteered to fight with Ukraine. But there hasn’t been — that I am aware of — any published combat footage of them. That is until James Vasquez, a 47-year-old Army veteran from Connecticut, began to post his own footage on Twitter. Like wildfire, the videos James posted spread across the internet with his age, cavalier attitude, and dad vocabulary arresting people’s attention.
This village has been Russian occupied for a month, they terrorized the people and took their food. Today we entered, took out 7 tanks and countless Russians thus liberating these people pic.twitter.com/0Fm3qHdepB
— James Vasquez (@jmvasquez1974) March 24, 2022
Judging by his Twitter posts, he arrived in Ukraine on the 14th of March, took a few days to get supplies and then went to the front lines. According to the Daily Mail, James has four sons, two of which are biological, and a wife named Tina. Before leaving to fight in Ukraine, he worked as a home renovation contractor. When asked why he volunteered, his wife Tina said, “It’s in his DNA, and he approached me, came to me after work, and said, ‘We need to talk, I can’t watch this on TV, I need to go help these guys.’”
Most would expect an American who volunteered to fight in Ukraine to likely be stoic, humorless, possibly former special forces and in their late 20’s. Instead, in true American fashion, the world of the internet has instead received an American dad who calls “burning buildings, rockets, and mortars all the fun stuff to make a day beautiful,” and brags online about all the Russian weaponry he has looted.
Many online found him amusing and saw him as this random middle aged American guy tweeting his war experience like it was a deep-sea fishing trip in Florida. But others saw his online war diary as a danger to the lives of the men around him due to the possible geolocation of the videos by Russian forces. Some also claimed he went to fight in Ukraine only for personal glory.
One thing that I have not seen mentioned yet is this. The world has not really seen an American act in such a way in a war zone before. Since the technology that allows the average soldier to record themself and instantly share videos online has been invented, Americans have generally only been in combat roles on behalf of the U.S. military. So, there was always a tight grip on what soldiers could and couldn’t post on social media. I know there are exceptions, such as Americans who volunteered with Kurdish forces to combat the Islamic State. But they never recorded and posted videos in the same style as James.
For those of you correcting me on tanks. I know some are armored vehicle. Just did not want to get into semantics but here’s some tanks to make you feel better?????? pic.twitter.com/uWDtwlLDC9
— James Vasquez (@jmvasquez1974) March 25, 2022
Soldiers outside of the West who have fought in other conflicts have frequently posted videos of them bragging after a victory. Prime example, we have seen numerous videos during this war from both Russian and Ukrainian forces that showoff the aftermath of engagements. Also, there are numerous videos from Middle Eastern conflicts on the internet of a fighter engaging enemy targets as his shaky handed friend films him with a cellphone. The difference here is that James is an American who at first glance seems like he should be grilling at the family barbecue and not looting .50 caliber machine guns off Russian tanks with a Leatherman.