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This Guy Played Pokémon Go While Fighting ISIS

Louis Park has been volunteering in Iraq for more than a year now and was as excited as anyone that the game was being released.

1. By now you’ve probably seen this picture, which went viral over the weekend, purportedly showing that Pokémon Go has truly gone further than anyone expected it to in its short time on Earth.

2. It turns out the picture really was taken in Iraq by 26-year-old Marine Corps veteran Louis Park.

Park is one of several Americans volunteering with Dwehk Nawsha, a local group of Christian Assyrians fighting against ISIS in Iraq.

3. After the Marine was deployed to Afghanistan and Japan, Park spent some time as a security contractor, but eventually decided to head for Iraq to take on ISIS in January 2015.

“Since Afghanistan, I kind of missed the action and everything,” Park explained to Time last year, detailing how he spent his savings of $3,500 to buy a ticket, ammunition, and used Kalishnakov rifle.

He initially wanted to join with the YPG, an offshoot of a pro-Kurdish independence group called the PKK that the U.S. and Turkey have deemed a terrorist organization. But a delay in Germany meant he would up signing up with Dwekh Nasha instead, and he’s been with them ever since.

4. Park told BuzzFeed News in an interview over Facebook Messenger that he’s long been a fan of the Pokémon franchise.

“The anime, the card game, all the games that came out. I still have an emulator on my phone of the old game,” he said.

5. So when he had the chance to download Pokémon Go onto his Android, he decided to give it a shot and was pleased to find that it worked in Iraq.

The Pokemon Company/Nintendo

6. (For those who were concerned about the fact that Park was using the game while in the middle of a war zone, the situation doesn’t appear to have been quite so dire.)

Niantic

Most days, Park said, it’s pretty quiet, thanks to the dug-in nature of the fight, but mortar exchanges aren’t infrequent. “Recently here on July 2 we had a skirmish,” he said. “But it’s not constant. Most days it’s just holding your post.”

7. Park posted the image to his Facebook, he explained, to show people back home that despite everything he’d been through, he’s still human.

“They see negative changes I go through, negative experiences,” Park said. “I got blown up by a mortar and somehow survived. I just want to show them that I still have some form of humanity.”

8. Despite the picture of him catching a Squirtle going viral, he told BuzzFeed News, he actually wound up with a Bulbasaur as his starter Pokémon.

Louis Park

Niantec/BuzzFeed

 

He also says he hasn’t had too much experience playing the game, despite being on leave for the last week.

“There’s not a lot of people playing near me, but there’s Pokestops and gyms,” he said. “I caught a Zubat in the market today.”

10. And not only has Park told the other members of his unit about the game, he’s seen other people around town playing, proving yet again that Pokémon truly is a global phenomenon.

Nintendo/The Pokemon Company

Check out more articles on BuzzFeed.com!

Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Hayes Brown at hayes.brown@buzzfeed.com.
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