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Former Army Ranger who Battled Islamic State in Syria Goes Missing

A missing post for Bruce Windorsky circulated Facebook. (Facebook.com)
A missing post for Bruce Windorsky circulated Facebook. (Facebook.com)

A former Army Ranger and police officer from Wisconsin who joined the war against Islamic State in Syria for several months earlier this year has been missing for the past week, according to his wife.

"He never talked about going back overseas, but he probably wouldn't have talked to me about it because he wanted to protect me," said Courtney Windorski of Gillett, who reported her husband, Bruce, missing last Sunday when he failed to return from what he told her would be an overnight with other veterans who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Bruce Windorski, 40, was featured in a Sept. 5 Wall Street Journal article about American veterans who have voluntarily gone on their own to fight Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that fewer than 100 Americans have done what Windorski did in January, when he left his home north of Green Bay without telling his wife and two children what he was doing.

After arriving in Syria, he kept in touch with them whenever possible. He returned home Easter weekend in April.

Bruce Windorski had fantasized for years about visiting Kirkuk, Iraq, where his older brother, Phil, died in 2009 when his Army helicopter was shot down, according to The Wall Street Journal article.

Last year, he saw reports that militants who took credit for downing his brother's chopper were joining Islamic State.

In January, he caught a flight to Iraq with plans to visit the area where his brother died, which didn't work out. He instead took up arms as a westerner alongside the People's Defense Units, or YPG, battling the Islamic State in Syria.

Last Sunday, when he didn't come home from the overnight trip that he said was about 45 miles southwest of Stevens Point, Courtney Windorski found out there was no veterans gathering planned that weekend.

Bruce Windorski's last cellphone activity was tracked to Thornfield Township in Ozark County, Mo., last Sunday -- the day after he left home.

An avid outdoorsman, he apparently took fishing tackle and five or six hunting rifles along in his 2003 gray Dodge Durango with Menominee Nation license plates A9658, according to his wife.

Some friends in Missouri on Saturday were searching a part of the Mark Twain National Forest where they thought he could have gone, Courtney Windorski said in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

An officer for the Gillett Police Department said Saturday that a missing-person report was sent out across Wisconsin and Missouri last Sunday, but that there were no leads.

Anyone who sees him is asked to contact local, state or federal authorities. The FBI is aware that he is missing.

"He knows how to survive," his wife said. "If this is a voluntary thing he's doing, I'm angry. But I'm also worried because I know there are things he's dealing with, and the last thing he wants to do is hurt us."

Courtney Windorski initially thought when her husband left in January that he was at a logging-equipment training class.

But Bruce Windorski actually was preparing to board a Chicago flight to Istanbul, and then onto Iraq, when the FBI called her, asking if her husband was going to join Islamic State.

The self-employed graphics designer had told FBI agents at the airport that he was traveling to get closure for his brother's death.

In a video produced by The Wall Street Journal, compiling interviews back home with video Windorski and another veteran shot while in Syria, Windorski told reporter Dion Nissenbaum that he felt like he resolved some of the issues he'd been having.

"I got to see it, I got to put boots on the ground. I engaged several targets over there. I feel like I got that revenge part of it."

But it became clear that he hadn't resolved everything, his wife said Saturday.

He began isolating himself, hardly ever leaving home. He was irritable. He did get some counseling, and joined a veterans support group.

But whenever he went somewhere to hunt or fish in solitude, he always checked in with his wife to give her his location, she said. That was part of their agreement so she wouldn't worry.

There was nothing unusual about his behavior before he left home about 4:30 a.m. last Saturday, wearing a red Shawano baseball cap, Courtney Windorski said.

"I gave him a hug and a kiss. He told me he loved me and he would see me early Sunday afternoon.

"He hugged me the way he always did. It wasn't as though he pulled me tighter because he wasn't coming back."

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