The bodies of three Americans who died fighting Islamic State as volunteers for a Syrian Kurdish militia have begun a return home after a weekslong struggle by their families and the U.S. government to repatriate their remains.
The remains of Levi Jonathan Shirley, William Savage and Jordan MacTaggart had been held for weeks in Syrian Kurdistan after they died fighting against Islamic State forces. Later, they were driven across the region—in ambulances displaying their so-called martyr photos—before crossing into Iraqi Kurdistan, where the paperwork needed for the flights to the U.S. was secured, according to representatives of the semiautonomous Kurdish Syrian region of Rojava.
On Monday, the bodies of two of the men left the Sulaymaniyah international airport here in Iraqi Kurdistan bound for Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, said a spokeswoman for Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D., Colo.), who has helped in the repatriation process. The other body had been flown out on Sunday. Both flights were expected to have extended layovers in Amman, Jordan.
The long and logistically complex journey from the Syrian battlefield back to the U.S. revealed a simple truth: It is much easier for Americans to get to Syrian Kurdistan to fight Islamic State than it is for their remains to come home.
“I didn’t think he was going to get out,”Reginald Savage of Raleigh, N.C., said of the remains of his son William, who died in early August. “I was planning on him being buried in Syria.”
YPG Press Release for Jordan MacTaggart
Remembering Sehid Ciwan Firat (Jordan MacTaggart)
Nom de guerre: Ciwan Firat
Real name: Jordan Mactaggart
Birthplace: Colorado / USA
Place and date of martyrdom: Minbic, 3. August 2016
I met Heval Ciwan for the first time when were waiting to cross the border into Rojava in spring 2014. He was a shy young anarchist from the US who sat in the corner of our hut, not really enganging with the rest of us and constantly writing in his journal. Quite frankly, at the time most of us were concerned that he wasn`t cut out for war but within a couple of weeks he proved all of us wrong. Soon after finishing his training he joined tabur Soran, a unit notorious for being in every fight possible. In one of his first contacts with the enemy he got shot in the leg and due to some unfortunate circumstances he was left in the field when his unit withdrew. Heval Ciwan put on his tourniquite on and crawled back to friendly lines the entire night. Amongst the foreign fighters in Rojava this story became a legend, until today people talk about `the American kid that got shot in the leg and crawled out all night`. During his second trip to Rojava Heval Ciwan keenly participated in every single operation possible and when we weren`t fighting Daesh he would mange to get into the skirmishes with the regime.
I never actually spent time with Heval Ciwan in a tabur but we would run into each other on a regular basis. He was always cheerful and content when most of us would be bitching about the food, the climate, battle tactics etc. I always had the feeling that Heval Ciwan was where he belonged, that he found his second home in the YPG, while many other foreign volunteers were just passing through. I know that it is not politically correct to say, but Heval Ciwan grew up and became a man as soon as he joined YPG and saw battle. In no time he became the type of guy you want to have around when things got bad.
Heval Ciwan was also known as `Born Dead` after the tattoo on his wrists, a tattoo that expressed his rather complicated relationship with death and dying which, frankly speaking, I never really understood. Nonetheless, whatever this realationship entailed, as everyone else who had the honour of knowing him in Rojava would agree, Heval Ciwan was a great fighter and a good friend who was taken from us way to soon.
Sehid Namirin – My friend, I will never forget you,
Levi Jonathan Shirley, an American volunteer with Kurdish forces, was killed in Syrian Kurdistan in July.
Mr. Savage, Mr. MacTaggart of Castle Rock, Colo., was killed in early August. Both likely died by gunfire, according to Gharib Hassou, a representative of YPG-affiliated Democratic Union Party.
Read More: Wall Street Journal
Featured Image – YPG
If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting our Veteran Editorial by becoming a SOFREP subscriber. Click here to get 3 months of full ad-free access for only $1