The war in Mosul is more intense than anything this American family has experienced, Karen Eubank says. The eight-month battle has taken place in a densely populated city, home to more than a million people when the Iraqi operation began.
Families face a gantlet of risks. U.S.-led airstrikes and sometimes indiscriminate artillery and mortar fire by Iraqi forces bombard neighborhoods held by the Islamic State. Families that attempt to escape risk being targeted by militants’ sniper and machine-gun fire, with the increasingly desperate extremists mowing down hundreds of civilians in recent weeks.
“They’ve been shelled, shot at, they’ve grown up like this,” David Eubank said. “Our deal is that if there’s another family there, we can be there. Americans aren’t worth more than anyone else.”
His team of Free Burma Rangers–including medics from Burma’s minorities who have traveled from their own war to help in Iraq’s–prepared their equipment for an expected afternoon push by Iraqi forces.
The rest of the family usually stays a step back from the front line. “I don’t want my kids to die. I don’t take them purposefully to the fighting,” Eubank said. “We pray and think about every risk.”
The group is being hosted by Brig. Gen. Mustafa Sabah, a brigade commander with the Iraqi army’s 9th Armored Division. Sabah said that he initially was surprised that Eubank brought his whole family with him. “I thought, ‘This is not the right place for children,’” he said. “But then when I got to know them well, I realized this is what makes them happy, and they really believe in what they are doing.”
Sabah said that by just being there, the family is doing enough “because they give positive energy to everyone around them,” but that along with the rangers, they have effectively become a logistics battalion.