On a crisp autumn day in a small hillside church, Levi Shirley’s remarkable journey from suburban Denver to the battlefields of Syria came to an end.

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

It was a fitting tribute for a young man whose desire to be a part of something bigger than himself led him from washing dishes at a local Red Robin restaurant to battling some of the most dangerous militants in the world.

Shirley wanted to be a Marine, a dream thwarted by his poor eyesight. So he found another path to service — one that ran through the Kurdish rebels battling Islamic State in Syria. He joined up and was quickly in the thick of the fight.

On July 14, during intense urban combat in Manbij, a city of 100,000 in northern Syria, Shirley, 24, was killed by an improvised explosive device.

It took nearly two months to get him back home. His body and that of fellow Coloradan Jordan MacTaggart, 22, killed in the same battle, arrived by train Sept. 16 in Denver’s Union Station. They were among a small number of Americans who have volunteered to fight against Islamic State with Kurdish forces.

Read More: LA Times

Featured Image – Levi Shirley, right, with Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State in Syria in 2015. A funeral for Shirley was held Saturday.

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