I Joined ISIS But Now I’m Back So Let’s Please Just Forget About It

Hey Friends & Family,

I hope you’ve all been well! I’ve had a WHIRLWIND of a year, to be honest. I’m sure a handful of you didn’t even notice my absence, since my parents chose to use a throwback photo on this year’s Christmas card! (Real cute, Ron and Nancy). So, to catch you all up, the short version of the story is: I joined ISIS, quickly realized my mistake, but couldn’t get out until recently.

Don’t freak out. I know when you hear “I joined ISIS” your head goes to the WORST places. I promise you it was a lot more innocent than that. It was one of those things where you kind of get swept up, and before you know it, you’re in too deep. I didn’t judge any of you when you tried to sell me a timeshare (Dave), or became obsessed Bikram Yoga (Dianne)! So cut me some slack on this one, K? It could’ve happened to any of us!

Some of you are probably like “Typical Brad, starting something with crazy intensity, then quitting it within a year.” Yeah, I know I have a bad track record in that regard. I’ve taken a lot of detours since high school. Let’s add this to list of Brad’s failures, I guess. Oh well. Benjamin Franklin said “Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out.” And that’s what I shall continue to do. My point is, I’m back, and I felt like if I didn’t address joining ISIS it would be the elephant in the room everywhere I went. We’d try to catch up and the whole time you’d be thinking “How the heck does a college dropout from Easton, PA end up in ISIS?”

I’ll just explain now, for everyone’s benefit. Basically, I met some guys on a bus trip to New York to see a high school friend (Alex, sorry I never showed up that day.). I end up sitting between these three guys. I’m overhearing their conversations, which are mostly expressions of discontent with America. I’m not the most patriotic guy, as most of you know, so I join the convo. We get to talking, and by the time we hit Port Authority, I’m 100% in. I’m not going to defend ISIS, obviously. I will say though, that they’re a very persausive group. Our own Army recruiters should take a note from these guys, honestly. They really knew how to push the right buttons!

I’m cutting out some pieces here but, I ended up in Afghanistan. The first few weeks were fine, it was all as promised. We really felt like we were standing for something. But as time wore on I sensed the cell I was working with lacked a bit of leadership, so I stepped in. My first goal was to get morale up. I had a deck of cards and I taught everyone how to play Texas Hold ’em. The guys went absolutely nuts for it. It was great. I got bored, and here’s where I screwed up: I made a little bet. Just some fig snacks, to make it interesting. As you can guess, that led to more bets which really took the poker thing to the next level. Now everyone’s wagering personal items, weaker members of the group, patches of land, etc. I’m in the clear because none of this is personal to me. But these guys had known each other a little too long so every game was intense. At this point it’s too big for me to control. It didn’t end until one of the higher ups visited our camp. He saw what turmoil the group was in and when he wanted to find the responsible party, and of course, everyone pointed to me. Not cool on their part, but I owned up.

Fast forward a few weeks, I’m in a small caravan heading into Iraq. We stop to get gas and I just bail. I just run like hell. By the time they realized I was gone, I was too far to chase. And they were trying to lay low so they weren’t going to fire at me. Now, someone or something must’ve been looking out for me that day because I wasn’t running for more than fifteen minutes before I bump into an outpost of, you guessed it, Kurdish soldiers! They get me somewhere safe, confirm my identity, all that jazz, etc. Now here I am a year later, back on U.S. soil.

So there it is. Just wanted to clear the air. We all do weird stuff in our late thirties, so please spare me your judgements. I’m really just trying to find my footing right now, get back in my own place, and settle down a little. I am on a job hunt currently, so if anyone has any leads I can pass along my resume. And let’s keep the explanation for the year-long gap in my employment between us. Thank you all, and I hope to see each and every one of you at our Memorial Day BBQ!

- Brad