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


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

Ian Toothill: Meet the First Cancer Patient who climbed Mount Everest!

Ian Toothill from Sheffield UK has become the first cancer patient in the world to have climbed the top of the Mount Everest

Ian Toothill
Ian Toothill says, "Nothing to see here... Just some cancer dude on top of Mount Everest, and for a few minutes the highest person in the world!" -Facebook Page Climbing Everest for Cancer
  • A man from Britain, diagnosed with bowel cancer, has climbed the Mount Everest
  • Ian Toothill, 47 years of age, was told by the doctors he has only months to live
  • He has become the first cancer patient to do so and has raised over £31,500 for cancer charity Macmillan

June 08, 2017: Ian Toothill had a childhood dream of climbing the Mount Everest. At age 47, he has successfully conquered his dream and become the first cancer patient to do so.

In June 2015, Toothill was diagnosed with bowel cancer. The doctors gave his 4 months to two years to live. He was on remission in early 2016, only later to be given months to live by the doctors.

On 14 May 2017, Ian Toothill reached the base camp to begin his attempt at conquering the Everest. He shared a picture of it on his Facebook page Climb Everest for Cancer, urging the followers to donate to the cancer charity Macmillan.

Upon reaching the summit, he celebrated by placing the flag of local football club Sheffield United FC to thank his friend for donating £1,000 to the cancer charity. Toothill himself is a Sheffield Wednesday FC fan and is the personal trainer of the club.

Ian Toothill shared on his page that he wants to inspire all cancer patients by his brave act. He motivated his followers to go ahead and do what they have always dreamt. Through this heroic act, Toothill has helped Macmillan cancer charity a total of £31,500.

We’d like to congratulate Ian Toothill for his bravery and courage!

Image from Ian Toothill’s Facebook page


– by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2393