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Americans not part of US Army Die Fighting Islamic State, return Home to Military-type Honors

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WILLIAM SAVAGE Picture Credits: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter presented flags Friday to the families of two men who never joined the U.S. military – but died fighting the Islamic State group in Syria – after their bodies returned to Colorado on Friday.

The caskets of Levi Shirley, 24, Jordan MacTaggart, 22, along with that of William Savage, 27, arrived Wednesday at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport after a complicated journey back to the U.S. without ceremony.

From there, Shirley and MacTaggart arrived by train in Denver, while Savage was being transported to North Carolina, where his father lives.

In Denver, the bodies were delivered to their sobbing loved ones in plain, gray caskets. A team of pallbearers unloaded the caskets from an Amtrak train and lifted them into hearses as sleepy passengers watched curiously.

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“Though they did not fight as members of our armed forces, they are Americans and as Americans we have a responsibility to bring these young men home and to give the families relief and closure,” Perlmutter said in a statement.

The men died separately in combat after joining the People’s Protection Units, the main Kurdish guerrilla group battling the Islamic State in Syria.

Turkey’s tense relationship with the Kurds and the U.S. since July’s failed coup stalled efforts to bring the men home.

The remains of Keith Broomfield of Massachusetts, believed to be the first American to die alongside Kurds fighting Islamic State, were returned to the U.S. through Turkey last year in 2015.

But Kurdish groups determined it would be too dangerous to repatriate the bodies of Shirley, MacTaggart and Savage through Turkey and instead shipped them hundreds of miles east to Iraq. The bodies were then flown to Amman, Jordan, and on to Chicago.

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Susan Shirley said she worked with the State Department to bring her son’s body home, and her friends contacted Perlmutter to help navigate the frustrating terrain. He enlisted aid from people at the White House.

“It took extraordinary measures by many people to get these men from Syria to the U.S., especially given the ever-changing and dangerous geopolitical dynamics in the Middle East,” Perlmutter said. “It seems we are in the final stages of this long and sad situation.”

Susan Shirley said her son was in Syria “as an American to protect Americans.”

But unlike fallen members of the armed forces, the young men had no military escorts to accompany their caskets and no 21-gun salute.

Still, Susan Shirley said she appreciated the homecoming for her son and extended her condolences to families that have lost military members in action.

“You can do all the pomp and circumstance you want, but those families aren’t getting their sons back, either,” Shirley said.

Veterans groups said they had no problems with the honors planned for the three men.

“They went to fight for the right side,” said Joe Davis, spokesman for the national Veterans of Foreign Wars. “You can’t fault a state for honoring their own.”

Shirley, of Arvada, Colorado, was killed by a land mine July 14. MacTaggart, of Castle Rock, Colorado, died Aug. 3 while fighting in a squad that included two Americans and a Swede in Manbij, Syria.

Savage, of St. Mary’s County, Maryland, also died in Manbij on Aug. 10. (VOA)

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  • Manthra koliyer

    May their souls rest in peace!

Next Story

Would Nick Jonas Actually Want To Marry Priyanka Chopra?

if Priyanka Chopra would marry her American boyfriend

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Priyanka chopra and Nick Jonas looking forward to form a martial alliance.
if Priyanka Chopra would marry her American boyfriend. Pixabay

Many, many years ago, the doyen of Marathi-Hindi cinema V. Shantaram was told by his daughter, the actress Rajshri, that she wanted to marry her American boyfriend Greg Chapman.

Shantaram was at that time in the midst of pre-production for a film called “Boond Jo Ban Gayee Moti”. He stared at his daughter with disbelieving eyes, unwilling to accept that she would betray her father in this way.

“And the best thing was, Shantaramji wasn’t worried about Raj — her pet name — marrying an American. He was only worried about his film. He quickly told his daughter to do whatever she wanted to and signed Mumtaz to play the lead opposite me,” recalls veteran actor Jeetendra, a close friend of Rajshri.

Her last film in India “Suhaag Raat” was with Jeetendra who visits his pal Raj even now when he is in the US.

Rajshri’s marriage to Greg Chapman has lasted for more than 35 years. Once she moved to the US with Greg, she never looked back, never had a hankering to return. Theirs is a marriage that defies all cross-cultural scepticism, forging as it did an alliance that went far deeper than the passport could ever record.

Would Nick Jonas, a hot favourite gay icon in the US, actually want to forge a marital alliance with our Desi Girl?
Would Nick Jonas, a hot favourite gay icon in the US, actually want to forge a marital alliance with our Desi Girl? Flickr

I don’t know if Priyanka Chopra would marry her American boyfriend. I can’t see her giving it all up like Rajshri to make a life in the US, unless Priyanka’s mother plans to make Nick her ghar-jamai (house husband). Would Nick Jonas, a hot favourite gay icon in the US, actually want to forge a marital alliance with our Desi Girl?

Something tells me this relationship lacks the staying-power of the Rajshri-Greg alliance. I will tell you why. For one, Greg had nothing to do with show business. He had no clue Rajshri was a star in India when they met in the US while she was shooting with Raj Kapoor for his globally-shot fiasco “Around The World”. Raj Kapoor would later joke that the only good thing that came out of this expensive disaster was Rajshri’s marriage.

In my experience, marriage of showbiz celebrities work best when the spouse is totally detached from the entertainment world. Nick and Priyanka are on the same side of the celebrity circus. Not good.

Rajshri gave it all up for Greg. It wasn’t just love. Rajshri didn’t care a damn about being an actress. Would Priyanka be able to give it all up? And to be politically correct, let’s take the reverse course — would Nick be willing to give it all up and settle down in India?

I am sure Shah Rukh Khan would find a vacancy for him at Red Chillies.

While the future of Desi Girl’s bonding with the Firangi Munda remains uncertain, I am reminded of the most famous American to have dated an Indian actress. Hollywood superstar Gregory Peck dated 1950s diva Suraiya for a fleeting phase when he visited India. He was really taken up with the beauteous actress. But Suraiya’s grandmother didn’t see Gregory Miyan as a son-in-law.

Also read: Priyanka Chopra’s subtle reply when asked about her marriage

On the rebound, Suraiya had a long relationship with the Gregory Peck lookalike Dev Anand. Alas, that too was a doomed alliance. But that’s another story. (IANS)