What'd you do on your summer off? This is what lots of college students will get asked in those first few days back on campus. I worked. I interned. I went on vacation. That will be probably be the standard answer for most kids. That is unless their name is Chris Jeon.
Jeon, 21 and mathematics major at UCLA, can say he fought in a rebellion against the forces of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
A few weeks ago during the tail end of his break, Jeon decided to fly one-way from Los Angeles to Cairo for $800. He then took the train to Alexandria. From there, he took a series of busses to the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi. It was there that rebels led him to Libyan capital of Tripoli before he settled in Nawfaliyah.
Despite no one knowing he was there, no knowledge of Arabic and not much money, Jeon was apparently getting along swimmingly with his new comrades. They gave him a weapon and a new name: Ahmed El Maghrabi Barga. That is until, according to a report from Al-Jazeera English producer Evan Hill, said they got annoyed with him and sent him back to Benghazi.
If he eventually makes it back in time for his first class at UCLA this semester, he'll be lucky to have his head intact. Jeon's actions are dangerously stupid. They remind me of when some high-school kid from Florida that went to Iraq for a school assignment during the height of the Iraq War. U.S. civilians without a military escort shouldn't just show up in a dangerous battle zone.
However, what's worse about Jeon is his reason for going to Libya to fight in this dangerous war. Why did Jeon remove himself from the U.S., go on a ridiculous journey to Libya and put himself in harm's way with a bunch of strangers who he's never met and can't even really communicate with?
It is the end of my summer vacation, so I thought it would be cool to join the rebels, Jeon said to The National.
Yup, he thought it would be cool.
Let's make something perfectly clear Mr. Jeon, war is not cool. Fighting as a rebel against the forces of a dictator for something you believe in isn't cool. It's a way of life for many of these people. They aren't doing this because it's cool. They are doing it because they feel it's the only way to be free from tyranny.
Why else would they engage the Gadhafi forces and undertake a war where hundreds, if not thousands, of people have been killed already? Not because it's cool, that's for sure.
Next time you want to do something cool for your summer break, why not try climbing Mount Everest? It's pretty cool -- and you have a better chance of surviving.