In February 2015, I interviewed Levi “Jack” Shirley, an American who was in the process of moving to Syria to fight ISIS with the YPG, for a Rockland County Times article. He used a nom du guerre at the time for security concerns. “Hopefully that (his assignment) means issuing me an M4 or M16 and putting me on the front,” he told me at the time. In July, The Washington Post reported that Shirley died in the Manbij offensive.
As a reporter, I don’t endorse what the YPG or any other armed group I speak to does. But Shirley was one of the first foreign YPG volunteers I spoke to, and I’ve now done a few articles on them as well as volunteers in Iraqi Kurdish and Christian groups also fighting ISIS. I appreciated his time, and never got the chance to meet him in person. Under very different circumstances, we both moved to the Middle East shortly after chatting via Facebook. The difference is Jack won’t ever return to our country. RIP.
Photo courtesy of the Shirley family.