ARVADA, Colo. -- An Arvada woman said her 24-year-old son died during combat in Syria. Susan Shirley said her son, Levi, joined Kurdish forces in their fight against ISIS.
Susan Shirley said she was notified by the U.S. Consulate in Turkey that her son died by a land mine explosion in Manbij, an ISIS-held city in northern Syria, on July 14.
Levi Shirley wanted to join the Marines after high school but couldn't because of poor eyesight.
"He was born with very poor eyesight," Susan Shirley said Thursday. "He had surgery as a teen. Even so, it was not enough to join the Marines."
Instead, he contacted Kurdish forces online and joined their fight for three months beginning in February 2015 last year before coming back to Arvada.
Levi Shirley rejoined the Kurds in January, fighting in Al-Jazira and Kobani before the offenive to recapture Manbij.
The State Department said it was aware of reports an American was killed in Syria but had no further comment.
Shirley was with the People's Protection Units, or YPG. It's a Kurdish group of some 30,000 fighters and is the senior partner in the Syrian Democratic Forces, which also includes some smaller Arab and Christian groups.
The last contact Shirley had with his family was in April with his sister.
"We were all in the dark," Susan Shirley said.
She added her son would have wanted "to get the story out about the Kurds."
Dozens of Americans and other Westerners are fighting in Syria, mainly with Kurdish groups.
"It's better to stand up and do something if you think you can help than to just sit back and watch because, 'Hey it's on the other side of the world and not my problem'," fighter Randy Roberts said last year.
Last month, American Keith Broomfield was killed fighting alongside Kurdish troops in Kobani, according to the State Department.