Three American men who were slain fighting ISIS after volunteering to serve alongside anti-IS rebels in Syria are being returned to US soil.
Although the three men never served in the US military, the bodies of Levi Shirley, Jordan MacTaggart and William Savage will be transported to their respective homes with and their families will be presented with flags that have flown over the US Capitol.
According to Military.com, US Representative Ed Perlmutter (D, CO) -who said the men have a right to come home- has been handling the return of the bodies and has made arrangements for Shirley and MacTaggart to return home to the Denver area, while Savage will be sent to his father in North Carolina.
“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.
While all three joined the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, they died at different times. Arrangements were made to bring them home sooner, but were stalled due to the failed coup in Turkey, who had an already contentious relationship with the Kurds.
During that time, the three bodies were instead re-routed an astonishing hundreds of miles eastward to Iraq, where they were then flown to Amman and Jordan before finally reaching Chicago.
Perlmutter was alerted by friends of Shirley’s mother in regards to the frustrations involved in bringing the bodies home and utilized aid from the White House to ease transition.
“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.”
While the men will not receive the same burial honors as their military counterparts are given, their families are just glad to have the bodies returned to them. For some like Shirley’s mother, Susan, a loss is a loss.
“You can do all the pomp and circumstance you want, but those families aren’t getting their sons back, either,” Shirley said.
Veterans of Foreign Wars spokesman Joe Davis has no problems with the honors planned for the three civilian fighters.
“They went to fight for the right side,” Davis said. “You can’t fault a state for honoring their own.”
Shirley, of Arvada, Colorado, perished after a landmine went off on July 14th. Fellow Coloradoan MacTaggart died on August 3rd while fighting in Manbij, Syria, alongside a squad that included two Americans and a Swede. Maryland native Savage died in Manbij on August 10th.
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