An American citizen who was refused by the US Marines due to poor eyesight has been killed fighting ISIS in Syria.
According to The Washington Post, Levi J. Shirley was reported killed in action -just short of his 25th birthday- in an announcement made by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) on Thursday.
In a statement released by the YPG, “Hevale Agir (Shirley’s pseudonym) was known for his discipline and sense of responsibility. His style and personality were a source of strength, motivation, and morale for his friends. In the fight, Hevale Agir was known and respected as a brave and altruistic person.”
“He’s not usually what you would first think of as a fighter,” Said Susan Shirley, Levi’s mother. “He’s not someone who would strike out an offensive on someone. But he also has a strong sense of justice and sticking up for the underdog, and the Kurds are about as underdog as you can get right now.”
Shirley’s father served three tours with the US Army during the Vietnam war, prompting his sin to want to follow in his footsteps. From a young age, Levi was obsessed with joining the US Marines.
Unfortunately for Levi, his eyesight resulted in him being barred from enlistment.
However, Shirley was not discouraged, going so far as to join the YPG in Syria last year to help the Kurds in the fight against ISIS.
After a few months, he returned to the United States, vowing never to return to battle. However, he found himself returning again in January, once again resurfacing in January.
One British-born YPG freedom fighter -who uses the pseudonym Macer Gifford- said He befriended Shirley last year and was impressed with his love for the Marine Corps and his stories of being discharged from two years in the Corps after being hit by a car.
According to his mother’s account, the USMC has no record of Shirley ever serving.
Gifford responded, saying that Gifford was a “good man” who “wanted it to be true so much.”
“Still soaking this up,” Gifford said in a private message. “That truth has added level of depth to him. The blunt Marine was so much more.”
In a video released by the YPG on Thursday, Shirley is seen wearing Vietnam-era Marine fatigues, talking about how he traveled to Syria to engage the Islamic State.
“They’re my definition of pure evil,” he said. “I don’t think good people in a society can stick other people inside of a cage and set them on fire, so… yeah, I came here to stop that.”
Shirley died in the fight to take back the city of Manbij, a known hub for foreigners looking to join ISIS and a point of interest for coalition forces, who provide air support and intel to friendly fighters on the ground.
Gifford said that Shirley compared his struggle against ISIS to that of the Eagle Squadrons- American volunteers who flew for the RAF during World War II before the United States officially entered the war.
“The American Eagles weren’t content to sit out the war and watch the Facists roll over Europe,” Gifford said. “In the same spirit, Agir couldn’t stay at home and watch while ISIS raped and murdered their way across Syria.”
While the Shirley family would like to recover their loved one’s remains, there is no clear plan of action as of Thursday.
“We’re kind of taking it one day at a time, really,” his mother said.
US Military Spokesman and Army Colonel Christopher Garver said Friday that the United States has some capabilities that could assist in bringing Shirley’s remains home, but it is unclear yet if it will be able to do so.
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