U.S. troops and veterans are flooding social media with defiant messages in the wake of a new threat against military personnel from a self-proclaimed division of the Islamic State group.
Thousands took to Facebook and Twitter following reports that an organization calling itself the Islamic State Hacking Division posted a kill list Friday night with names, photos and addresses of 100 U.S. troops. The group calls for sympathizers inside the U.S. to attack the personnel in their homes.
They claim the troops listed were behind strikes on IS targets, and should be attacked in retaliation.
But active-duty and former service members are not cowering in fear. Instead, many offered up their addresses, daring IS sympathizers to pay them a visit.
"I have two residences, I hope they do not come to the empty one," one Marine Corps Times reader wrote.
"Where do I sign up to give them my info?" another asked.
Others posted photos of themselves, some while holding pistols or other weapons.
"Come at me," one Army Times reader wrote, alongside a photo of himself holding a Glock pistol. "... You will encounter a Glock 22 .357, AR-15, M206 .38 Special, three years of wrist-breaking Aikido skills, and a K-bar in your throat."
Most of the troops on the list are pilots, including Marines, airmen and sailors. Defense Department officials reacted quickly, warning troops that while the threat remained unconfirmed, they should exercise caution in sharing personal data online.
While the group boasted that Defense Department servers, emails and databases were hacked in order to compile the personal information on the troops, about two-thirds of the names were published in military press releases, according to the Daily Beast. Many popped up in press releases and photographs posted on the military's Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System, or DVIDS, which is publicly accessible, according to the Daily Beast.
Kristine Schellhaas, Marine spouse, and the woman behind USMCLife.org and KristineSpeaks.com, is well-connected within the Corps. The families she speaks with remain vigilant, but not particularly worried.
"Links to the various articles are certainly being posted and commented on [on] Facebook, but it's more a reminder to lock down social media profiles," she wrote in an email. "No one seems to be taking the threat too seriously. It's been heard before and people [are] still taking precautions, but I don't believe that many think it's a credible threat."
Schellhaas has been critical of the Corps for outing its members and their families in public before. When officials first began exploring whether to remove outdated and largely unneeded personal vehicle decals last year, she urged them to drop the requirement. It identified troops and their families — all branches have different guidelines for how and when to use the stickers — when off-base, making them targets, she argued.
In recent years, military families and Defense Department employees have sought to downplay their affiliation. Officials even have offered suggestions on how to remain obscure when not on a secure facility.
That trend has carried over to social media, Schellhaas said. Men and women once proudly displayed their connection to the military online, but fewer are being so open about their ties to the Defense Department, she said.
"I've noticed an [uptick] in private Facebook groups where people are asking their non-friends to tell them what they can see on their page" Schellhaas said.
But she — and others — hold fewer concerns about this apparent use of intimidation.
"When IS targeted military spouses online several months ago, there was a trend in military spouses downplaying their affiliation online," she recalled. "Many changed their last names, but there hasn't been a spike [after] this latest threat. Everyone is moving forward with business as usual."
Her peers also are continuing to remove other outward displays of their military affiliation, Schellhaas said. That includes removing personal vehicle decals if possible. But it's far from a unanimous stand, she said.
"Others don't care and continue to show pride with a 'bring it' attitude towards anyone who wants to challenge America," Schellhaas said. "I don't think IS is seeing success with their scare tactics overall in the military community."
Many troops on social media are echoing the sentiments of Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer. The Marine veteran mocked the Islamic State on Facebook and other social media outlets in December, at one point inviting fighters to a book club meeting at his home.
Still, others are urging caution following "lone-wolf" style attacks in other countries.
"Regardless of the bravado permeating this thread, this is still a very scary proposition," one Army Times reader wrote. "Especially for these folks with kids."