DENVER -- After weeks of agonizing and waiting by their families, the bodies of two Colorado men killed fighting ISIS in Syria are finally back in the United States.
Levi "Jack" Shirley, from Arvada, was killed on July 14. Less than a month later another Coloradan died fighting. Jordan MacTaggart, from Castle Rock, was killed August 3.
Both fought alongside Kurdish forces called the People's Protection Unit (YPG) in Syria.
The men were part of a small group of Americans who decided to become foreign fighters. Approximately 150 to 200 U.S. citizens have traveled to Syria to join the fight against the Islamic State, according to the British investigative journalism site Bellingcat.
The remains of Shirley, MacTaggart and William Savage, of Maryland, arrived in Chicago Wednesday afternoon from Amman, Jordan.
Shirley and MacTaggart’s bodies are expected to arrive via train in Denver Friday at Union Station around 7 a.m.
Shirley’s mother, Susan, told Denver7 she was happy this chapter in the family’s life is almost over.
“It’s been a long wait to close this chapter. The hardest part if still ahead, which is about learning to spend the rest of our lives without Levi,” Susan Shirley said. “But it helps to have him back in the country he loved, just as it helps knowing he died standing up for those who needed his help, side by side against a greater evil.”
A spokesman for Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-CO, whose office has worked to get Shirley and MacTaggart’s bodies back to the U.S., said the Congressman will try to present two American flags flown over the U.S. Capitol to their families.
His office has worked as the main liaison in getting the men’s bodies home and issued the following statement to Denver7 Wednesday afternoon:
“These three young men - Levi, Jordan and William - felt a need to serve which led them to fight ISIS overseas. 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.
"While much of the process took too long, this situation was unique and extremely complicated. 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. It seems we are in the final stages of this long and sad situation. I will be relieved when these young men are finally returned home to their families.”
Denver7 will speak to the MacTaggart family Wednesday evening and will have more at 10 p.m.