ARVADA -- Family and friends gathered to celebrated the life of Levi "Jack" Shirley on what should've been his 25th birthday. They shared memories, lit candles, and sang happy birthday.
Shirley, known by his Kurdish nickname 'Agir' was killed in Syria on July 14. He joined Kurdish forces called the People's Protection Units or YPG in order to fight ISIS. He was killed during combat operations in the Syrian city of Manbij.
"This is pretty bittersweet. My boy really loved birthdays. There’s no way we’re not giving him a birthday," said his mom Susan Shirley.
Dozens came together at Ralston Central Park, including another American citizen who fought in the YPG with Shirley.
"Everyone has their own reasons, I mean Levi went over there because he knew it was the right thing to do," said Jayson Pihajlic, a friend and former YPG fighter from Michigan.
Weeks after Shirley's death another Colorado man, Jordan MacTaggart, was killed in Syria. His parents attended the memorial and have developed a relationship with the Shirley family.
"So I’m hoping that you know, mom to mom like I keep telling her and she keeps telling me us moms really have to stick together," said Shirley.
Both families are still trying to bring the bodies of their loved ones back to the United States. Susan Shirley said she is not sure how long it might take to bring her son back home to his final resting place.
Congressman Ed Perlmutter said he recently talked with a Kurdish representative and was on the phone with the White House Tuesday. He spoke during the memorial and said, "We are I think close to him being returned but it's obviously a very dangerous passage to bring the body home."
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help with expenses related to bringing his body back to Colorado.