Remains of two Colorado men killed in Syria arrive at Union Station

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Denver, Colo.-, September 16, 2016 | comments

The bodies of two Colorado men who gave their lives in the fight against the Islamic State arrived at around 7:40 am at Union Station on Friday morning. They were greeted by a small group of family and friends who traveled there from around Colorado.

Jordan MacTaggart of Castle Rock and Levi “Jack” Shirley of Arvada were killed this summer during the fight to liberate Manbij, a Syrian city that was occupied by the Islamic State. Their families have been waiting to be reunited with their remains for months.

The caskets arrived on the California Zephyr, a passenger train coming from Chicago. The office of Congressmen Ed Perlmutter helped coordinate between the families, several different government agencies including the White House, United States Embassies and the Kurdish militia the two young men were fighting with.

Both men traveled to Syria to fight with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units after connecting with recruiters on social media.They were both motivated by a strong impulse to help others and moral outrage at massacres committed by the Islamic State, their families said.

Kurdish soldiers guided the bodies through battlefields and across borders. The remains traveled thousands of miles, through war zones, across four countries and two continents to arrive in Denver.

MacTaggart and Shirley were transported with the remains of William Savage, another American fighter killed during the offensive, whose remains were sent to Raleigh, N.C.

“It’s been a long journey to get them home,” Perlmutter said, “both of these men did something very dangerous, obviously not part of our military, but we honor them.”

Perlmutter presented both families with a framed U.S. flag that had flown over the Capitol building.

“We waited for nine weeks for this day,” said Russell Shirley, Levi’s father, “but the last thing I wanted to see my son’s casket.”

Levi’s sister Kate Shirley wept while she embraced the casket containing her brother before it was loaded into a hearse bound for Arvada.

The somber moment helped bring closure to the deaths of MacTaggart and Shirley, their families said.

“Look at what he’s brought,” said Robert MacTaggart, Jordan’s father, “maybe somebody else will learn what is going on over there because of him.”

MacTaggart and Shirley only met briefly during their separate tours with the Kurdish militia, but through death, they brought their families close together.

“Once I heard about Jordan, I immediately found his sister online and reached out,” said Kate Shirley, Levi’s sister. Since then, they’ve helped guide the MacTaggarts through the process, she said.

“From what I hear, Jordan and Levi would have been friends,” Kate Shirley added.

Content originally published by The Denver Post on September 16th, 2016.
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