Colorado family says son died fighting for Kurdish militia
CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (AP) — The parents of a Colorado man reported killed fighting against the Islamic State group says their son joined Kurdish forces to “fight the evil that is ISIS.”
Jordan MacTaggart, 22, was believed to be killed on Aug. 3 while fighting in a squad that included two Americans and a Swede in Manbij, Syria, said his father Robert MacTaggart Wednesday.
MacTaggart said those fighting with his son told him by phone that he died while helping a soldier wounded by an improvised explosive device. MacTaggart said his son was shot in the chest.
Details of Jordan MacTaggart’s death were not released by the U.S. State Department, which said it was working to confirm it.
His family said Jordan MacTaggart went to join the fight after hearing about beheadings, stabbings and sexual assaults reportedly committed by ISIS forces.
“He had a huge heart and he was always affected by any injustice,” said his mother, Melissa MacTaggart. “It would hurt him, probably more than other people, like he couldn’t let it go.”
MacTaggart’s father first told KMGH-TV on Tuesday that a group called the People’s Protection Unit contacted his family to tell them their son was killed.
MacTaggart is the second Coloradan reported killed while fighting with Kurdish forces. The first American believed to have been killed fighting ISIS had no military training and died alongside Kurdish forces in 2015. Keith Broomfield of Massachusetts had joined the People’s Protection Units known as the YPG under the nom de guerre Gelhat Rumet.
The YPG is the main Kurdish guerrilla group battling ISIS in Syria.
Susan Shirley of Arvada, Colorado, said the U.S. Consulate in Turkey called her to tell her that her son Levi Shirley, 24, was killed July 14 by a land mine. Robert MacTaggart said the Shirleys have reached out to him and are helping the family.
Robert MacTaggart said his son fought in Syria for most of last year, was wounded, returned home in October and headed back in January. McTaggart said before the first tour that he tried steering his son toward school or the U.S. military.
Robert MacTaggart said his son had done his research and joined the YPG, a Kurdish militia that includes men and women.
“Their cause became his. Without regret or remorse, he was in Syria to do his best to help them,” the statement said.
Robert MacTaggart said he followed the battles of the Kurdish forces on the internet and had contact with fighters in Syria in order to track the well-being of his son.
His last message exchange from his son on July 21:
“No news is good news. Sorry it’s short but I have to go back to work.”
MacTaggart messaged back that he was proud of his son.
“We support him completely and our sincerest wish is that no one turns a blind eye to this ongoing Kurdish revolution,” the family said.
His parents said Jordan MacTaggart danced in a cape to lighten the mood for fellow soldiers on the Syrian front. As a teenager sporting black clothes and a mohawk, Melissa MacTaggart said her son befriended an elderly neighbor from across the street, stopping by occasionally to have coffee.
He also occasionally bought a loaf of bread and peanut butter to make sandwiches for homeless youth living along the 16th Street Mall in Denver.
Jordan MacTaggart planned to join the military after this latest tour.
“I wish I could make this go away and it wasn’t true,” said Melissa MacTaggart. “He would go weeks without messaging us and it’s like he’s just away and this is one of those times he can’t message us.”