ARVADA, Colo. -- The mother of a 24-year-old Colorado man who joined Kurdish forces in their fight against the Islamic State group says her son was killed in combat in Syria.
Susan Shirley says the U.S. Consulate in Turkey called her Tuesday to tell her that Levi Shirley was killed July 14. She says her son had wanted to join the Marines, but he couldn't because of his bad eyesight. He then reached out to Kurdish forces online and joined the fight for about three months last year before returning to Arvada in suburban Denver.
A YouTube video shows Levi who went by the Kurdish nickname Agir denouncing ISIS. In the video he says, "They're my definition of pure evil."
Shirley says her son had a hard time adjusting back to life in Colorado and rejoined the Kurds in January.
"They’re very kind open hearted people and that’s what my son was too, [a] very kind very big hearted person," said Shirley.
State Department officials say they are aware of reports that an American was killed in Syria, but they declined to comment further. Shirley said she has been in contact with the State Department and is concerned about getting her son's body back to the United States.
"He’s a better man than anyone I’ve ever met and he has more heart than anyone I’ve ever met that’s for sure," said Casey Ortiz, a close friend.
Shirley attended Arvada High School. The district released the following statement:
We are saddened to hear one of our former students was lost at such a young age, so far from home. Arvada High and all the JeffCo Public Schools family sends condolences to the family and friends of Levi “Jack” Shirley. We hope the fact that he was fighting for a cause he believed in offers some sort of comfort.
Matt Teegarden, an Arvada High staff member, shared the following: “Levi ‘Jack’ Shirley was a fairly recent graduate of AHS. Jack wanted badly to join the U.S. Marines and worked fiercely to do so. He was a great kid. Jack was funny, kind, sensitive, and hard-working. He never surrendered his principles and beliefs, and gave his life on those terms.”
Shilery's younger sister created a GoFundMe account in order to bring his remains back to the U.S. You can help them in their efforts by clicking here.
Copyright 2016 Scripps Media, Inc. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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