DERIK, Syria, Oct. 21 (UPI) -- A former American soldier from Wisconsin who has become the face of the YPG Kurdish military force in Syria, told UPI Wednesday in an exclusive interview that civilians have been burned in an Islamic State attack, with injuries consistent with chemical weapons.
Jordan Matson, 28, a former U.S. Army soldier speaking from Derik, Syria, said his information comes from Walat Omar, the head field doctor in the embattled border town of Kobane, which is encircled by IS militants. Matson and others in the area said the injuries were caused by chemical weapons.
"Since I got the phone calls here in the location... I looked into it myself and after I'd seen pictures from fighters... from Kobane, I contacted the local field doctor on the ground in Kobane and he had sent me many pictures from the hospital," Matson said in his first video interview with U.S. media.
"We're trying to get a video camera to Kobane because they don't have one right now to record the injured and show the world proof of what's going on over there. ... We're making more attempts to have more solidified proof for the rest of the world."
Omar posted photos to Facebook of visible burns that were reportedly sustained in the overnight attack.
Matson, a native of Sturtevant, Wisconsin, arrived in Syria last month via Iraq and quickly became the public face of the YPG.
"Someone had to do it," he said, laughing.
He is more serious in the widely publicized image of him clad in camouflage, a head scarf and carrying a weapon now appearing across YPG's social media accounts. Although the public role "was thrown on me," Matson is quick to add he's happy to play it because the media attention has "brought light to the situation here."
Matson says American veterans are "outraged" over the deteriorating security situation in Iraq.
"We do not want to see our brothers' lives be for nothing," he said. "So, in the hundreds, veterans are lining up to come over here because if our government won't do anything, we will."
Matson acknowledged that the recent U.S. airdrops of Iraqi-provided weapons to YPG fighters in Kobane are helpful in the battle against IS, but that more is needed.
On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was asked to explain U.S. support to non-vetted local fighters in Syria.
Earnest said that while there is "limited insight into those particular fighters... the fact is, at this point, they are working hard to defeat ISIL forces that right now are concentrated on this specific community."
"So we're going to evaluate each of these circumstances as they come along to look for opportunities to support local fighters against ISIL," Earnest said.
Matson said YPG needs more weapons and night vision goggles. The Islamic State militants, he said, fight primarily under cover of darkness and engage with YPG within 300 meters.
Night vision goggles "would give us the ability to see them coming, organize our defenses and engage the enemy, and force ISIS to fight us at day because we would have a larger advantage."
On Tuesday, the YPG launched a recruitment campaign. "JOIN People's Defense Units/YPG/in Rojava, Syria, SEND TERRORISTS TO HELL and SAVE HUMANITY," reads the YPG's 'Lions of Rojava' recruitment message.
The page profiles American fighters, including Matson, who have traveled to Syria to join the battle against IS.
Matson encouraged his Facebook followers to consider joining the YPG, directing those interested to visit the newly established YPG recruitment page: "For all those looking to join the YPG... send them a private message. They will explain what you need for your journey and will organize travel arrangements for you. Thank you all for your patience and god bless."
It's unclear how many Americans are now overseas but Matson said Wednesday there are "hundreds."
Neither the U.S. Army nor the Pentagon would comment on the travel of former veterans to Syria.
The YPG has identified two other Americans who have joined its defense forces. Brian Wilson of Ohio, and Jeremy Woodard, a former infantryman from Mississippi.
Wilson declined to be interviewed.
Woodard's brother, Allen, expressed frustration with Jeremy's decision to travel to Syria. In a public Facebook post last month, he wrote:
"I talk to him almost everyday and still don't really understand why the hell he did go over there but he is there now and nothing I can do about it now. I just hope he makes it back fine. I think the military failed him this time. He never got the war and stuff out of him and the VA's mental health didn't keep a watch on him... His reasoning and excuses for going over there just don't make sense at all."