American veteran Matthew Crane has been to Iraq and Kuwait, and has led disaster relief teams in the U.S.

Now he says he's found a new mission at the Oceti Sakowin Camp in North Dakota, supporting those opposing the Dakota Access pipeline.

The 32-year-old navy veteran is one of a growing number of ex-military members heading to the centre of the pipeline fight as part of a group called Veterans Stand for Standing Rock.

Last week the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the Oceti Sakowin Camp land, told people who had gathered on the land they had to leave by Dec. 5.

But state officials have since said they won't enforce the order and more people are arriving, despite frigid temperatures, snow and mounting uncertainty about what will happen at the site.

For his part, Crane says he is willing to be a human shield between local law enforcement — which he describes as a "domestic enemy" — and those who have congregated at the site to oppose the pipeline.

Veterans have a demonstration on Backwater bridge  near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. December 1, 2016. (Stephanie Keith/Reuters)

"They're not protesting, they're praying," he said. "We're going to act as a barrier."

Veterans here say there are a number of reasons drawing them in, including standing up for Indigenous people, environmentalism and even seeing an opportunity to put specialized survival skills to use.

Veterans have a demonstration on Backwater bridge during a protest near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. (Stephanie Keith/Reuters) 

Brandee Paisano, for one, chokes up when she describes why she is here. She's an Indigenous U.S. navy veteran from the Laguna Pueblo tribe in New Mexico, who was raised by a single father who did two tours in Vietnam.

Veterans have a demonstration on Backwater bridge during a protest near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. (Stephanie Keith/Reuters) 

"I signed up to serve my country and my people and I did that overseas," she said. "I didn't think I'd have to do it here, on this land, so here I am. This is what I need to be doing."

Those who oppose the pipeline say it could threaten drinking water and harm sacred sites. Others say it is a safer way to move crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois.

 Veteran Matthew Crane says soldiers like him have skills and training that could be useful in the Oceti Sakowin Camp. (Angela Johnston/CBC)

 Veteran Brandee Paisano says she has an eight-year-old son and part of the reason she is at the Oceti Sakowin Camp is to make him proud. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Arrival: Veterans marching to the bridge on the front lines. Photo Credit Trip Jennings

Responses to "US Vets: "They're not protesting, they're praying, We're going to act as a barrier.""

  1. Anonymous says:

    U.S. Veterans, thank you for your service, and thank you for your continued service and dedication in acting as human shields for the water protectors, a just cause. I will keep you all in my prayers that you all be safe, and somehow, by the grace of our one Creator will be successful in putting a stop to this pipeline. The entire world is watching you, and so many of us are standing with you in unity. Let us have a successful mission. Stay safe.

  2. Thank you !

  3. Anonymous says:

    ^^AMEN! Thank You!

  4. Thanks to you all for making a righteous stand - my thoughts of best wishes to you all come from Australia - we are watching! And we are disgusted by the treatment of the protectors by these insane bigoted,racist 'POLICE"

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thank god you are there.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thank you - for coming to protect the protectors - all of you standing in prayer and peace against such overwhelming hostility - have so much courage - Thank you!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Prayers and Good Vibes sent to our veterans who will be acting as a human shield by standing Standing Rock may God protect each and one of you amen

  8. Unknown says:

    Thank standing Rock and VETs. Here is my love share back x

  9. Unknown says:

    You are all displaying the kind of courage and strength that we need to see right now. We stand with you. We thank God that you stand with us! Prayers for each and every soul protecting the land and water at Standing Rock.

  10. Anonymous says:

    In UK. Am awed by you guys spirit and commitment.

  11. Unknown says:

    Thank YOU. Onelove my brothers and sisters.

  12. (From the UK) Thank you guys for your courage and skills you bring in abundance for the world...I can think of no better song to sing than... I AM LOVE, YOU ARE LOVE, ALL IS LOVE. Blessings.

  13. Unknown says:

    Irony. The vets are doing what they joined up for. Protecting the US from enemies foreign and domestic. It follows then that the vets in the police and private security have become terrorists protecting the corporation's greed. I am a UK vet and I applaud the water protectors and the vets who are supporting them. As for the scumbags on the other side, shouldn't you be back in your own communities you are being paid to serve. It would be interesting to find out if crime has risen in those communitied

  14. Anonymous says:

    "I swear to protect my country from all enemy's Foreign and Domestic"

    I have the right to refuse an unlawful order!!!!!

  15. Unknown says:

    I prayed that you would All get there in Time!! May God be on your Side as you have the SUPPORT of the America People.. Stay strong. We Thank You All who are at Standing Rock❤️

  16. Anonymous says:

    May the Universal Love touch all and awaken all to what is really happening here and create a peaceful resolution. We are water...Protect the waters....Thank you my brothers and sisters for your righteous stand against the machine.

  17. Unknown says:

    My thanks to all of the brave vets, willing to defend ALL of our countrymen against threats both foreign and (especially) domestic. Your fellow vets salute you all.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Thank you VETS!!!! You make me proud to be an American....Our govt has sold out to big business but the spirit of America still lives in you!!

  19. Unknown says:

    Be safe, be sheltered, be in love and peace. Be whole and carried by the light of the earth, kissed by the lighter light of the water and blessed by the spirit of sun and wind.

  20. Anonymous says:

    To the Veterans of war who are standing with our Indigenous brothers, I thank you on behalf of all who seek to live as free men and women. Without the fears of Tyranny and hate projected by Corporate greed, and their desire to enslave America to bend to their will. Thank you all. And please care for our Indigenous family who have suffered by the hands of Big Oil. There is a better way to get renewable energy without destroying the only planet we have. You are doing this not just for them but for all Americans who care about this beautiful land we live in.

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