UCLA Student Recounts Summer Fighting with Libyan Rebels
Chris Jeon with rebel fighters in Libya (The National)
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21-year-old Chris Jeon says that, when he heard that Libyans were fighting the Gadhafi regime for their freedom, he heard a call for action.
Jeon says he responded the only way he knows how, by going there.
"As a student growing up in America, you always read about the American Revolution in the history books, and I saw many parallels to that," Jeon told KTLA.
"That's... what compelled me," Jeon said. "What is it like living with people who are fighting for a basic right, you know, freedom?"
Jeon bought a one-way ticket to Cairo, then traveled by Train to Alexandria.
From there, he took buses and hitched rides until he reached the Libyan capitol of Tripoli.
The rebels lent the math major an AK-47, and gave him a crash course on firing it.
Jeon speaks no Arabic, and says he communicate primarily using sign language.
Jeon says he quickly gained the trust and respect of the Libyan freedom fighters.
"The first day out, they took me to a pretty big battle with artillery falling around me," he told KTLA.
"They would come up to my heart and they would put their palm on my heart and see if it was beating or not. Of course, it was thundering, but I didn't back away."
Jeon says his stories and videos aren't the only things he brought back with him to the United States.
He says he also carries a new-found respect for the cost of freedom and the knowledge that he has a lot in common with the rebels he was fighting alongside.
"We're all the same," Jeon said. "They just want a better future for their kids. They want money to buy the things they want. They want food so they don't go hungry. And many of these rights were denied to them by the former government under Gadhafi."
Jeon's parents say the didn't know he was going to Libya. Once they found out, they convinced him to come back to Los Angeles.
Incidentally, this wasn't Jeon's first adventurous trip.
Three years ago, he lived in a Cambodian orphanage for 3 weeks. After that, he lived with indigenous people in the Amazon, and last year, he went to Seattle for a week with nothing more than $1 in his pocket.