A former Occupy Wall Street protester who fell in love with a fellow activist while battling worldwide economic inequality died while fighting against the Islamic State group in Syria.
Robert Grodt, 28, a volunteer medic who spawned the movement’s first “Occubaby” with fellow protester Kaylee Dedrick, took up the cause of the Middle East’s Kurds by joining the People’s Protection Units, also known as the YPG.
Grodt died July 6. Fellow American volunteer Nicholas Alan Warden, 29, also died in combat on July 5.
The Americans died in Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s base in northern Syria, the YPG announced. They were not members of the U.S. special forces embedded with the Syrian coalition.
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Grodt explained his reasons for fighting abroad in a video posted by the Kurdish militia group.
“My reasons for joining the YPG was to help the Kurdish people in their struggle for autonomy within Syria and elsewhere. Also to do my best to be able to fight Daesh and help create a more secure world,” he said.
He also addressed his daughter, Tegan Kathleen Grodt, born in September 2012, saying he was sorry he was not home with her.
“Just know that I love you all,” Grodt told his family in the message.
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He met Dedrick, the girl’s mother, after she was pepper-sprayed by police at the 2011 Occupy Wall Street protest. The medical worker rushed to her aid as she screamed in agony.
Dedrick later won $55,000 in a settlement with New York City, which she planned to put toward the baby’s college fund, she said at the time.
Grodt’s former boss, Spike Murphy, who oversaw Grodt when he campaigned for Equality California in Santa Cruz and the Central Coast, described him as free-spirited and passionate.
“He lived very much in the moment. He would throw himself into something wholly without thoughts about that future for himself, which got him in trouble sometimes,” Murphy told the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
Warden said in a YPG video that ISIS-inspired attacks in San Bernardino, Orlando and Paris led him to join YPG.
Warden’s father, Mark Warden, told the Military Times his son was a U.S. Army combat veteran who served with the 101st Airborne Division from March 2007 to November 2011.
U.S.-backed forces have conquered a third of Raqqa since efforts to overtake the city began last month.
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