“Jack” Shirley of Arvada was killed fighting the Islamic State with Kurdish forces in Syria
By CLAIRE CLEVELAND
PUBLISHED: August 6, 2016
Frustrated that his eyesight rendered him unfit for the U.S. Marines, Jack joined the war on terror, against the wishes of his government, by volunteering with the People’s Protection Unit, a Kurdish group clashing with the Islamic State in northern Syria. Amid the tangled geopolitical alliances of the Middle East, the YPG — shorthand for Jack’s unit — falls under a political wing believed to have ties to yet another group the U.S. has classified as a terrorist organization.
Joe Amon, The Denver Post
Susan Shirley with a picture of
her son Levi Jonathan Shirley that
died in Syria as a volunteer with
an armed Kurdish group, the YPG to
Day after day, Susan Shirley sits at the round, wooden table in her Arvada kitchen, her blue eyes intensely scanning e-mails or Facebook messages on her laptop and then, eventually, wandering past the window into the yard where her son once played.
She refocuses on the spiral notebook before her and logs another entry in a minute-by-minute to-do list of grief: 10:30: …request info costs embalming etc….
The notes go on for pages, chronicling a mother’s complex quest to bring home her son, 24-year-old Levi Jonathan “Jack” Shirley, who was killed on a Syrian battlefield while fighting the Islamic State.
And so news of his death, the second among an estimated 100 Americans who have volunteered with such militias, arrived not with a hero’s accolades and the thanks of a grateful nation, but with a logistical burden heaped upon sorrow at the loss of a son.
Russell Shirley, who served two tours in Vietnam and has struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and readjusting to civilian life, felt relief when Jack was disqualified from the Marines. He figured that put an end to the possibility of his son joining a foreign battle.
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