A former Marine from Florida is the third American killed this month while fighting the Islamic State alongside a U.S.-backed Kurdish militia group in Syria.
Ocala native David Taylor confided in a childhood friend his plans to join the People’s Protection Units after being discharged from the Marines in 2016. But he kept it a tightly-held secret from his family.
His father dropped him off at a airport for a trip to Ireland and after several weeks of silence, he learned of Taylor’s decision to return to the Middle East.
The 25-year-old veteran began training with the militia in May.
“I got an email and he said, ‘Pops, don’t worry. I’m with the YPG,” Taylor’s father, David Taylor Sr., told the Associated Press.
The Kurdish militia on Tuesday shared a video announcing that Taylor, serving under the nom de guerre Zafer Qerecox, was “martyred in action” on July 16.
“He was a well-liked, generous and caring person, and a professional at his job,” said a YPG spokesperson.
The militia also shared a clip of a bearded Taylor explaining his decision to volunteer with the group while sporting a YPG combat uniform.
“I joined the YPG to fight ISIS and do whatever I can to help the revolution here,” Taylor said, before signing off with a message to loved ones. “I just wanted to say hello to my family. I miss you guys and hopefully I’ll see you soon.”
It’s unclear when the video was recorded.
“He loved his country. He loved democracy,” the grieving father told the AP. “He had a mission, to go over there and advance democracy and freedom like we have it over here. It came at a horrible price.”
The YPG did not reveal publicly how Taylor died.
Taylor’s friend, however, did. Alex Cintron told Taylor’s parents in an email that his pal was killed by an improvised explosive device.
He added that Taylor drunkenly revealed his ambitions to help the militia in February. He previously served deployments in Afghanistan, Japan, South Korea and Jordan, his father said.
“One night he got drunk and told me of the atrocities he had witnessed in the Middle East during his time in the Marine Corps,” said Cintron, in an email Taylor’s father shared with the AP.
“He said to the effect that ‘ISIS was the bane of modern existence and needed to be stopped before they destroy any more lives and priceless works of human achievement,’” Cintron added.
The latest casualty follows the death of two more Americans in Syria. Robert Grodt, a 28-year-old New Yorker known for his Occupy Wall Street protest romance, was killed July 6. Nicholas Warden, 29, was killed July 5.
Both died in Raqqa while fighting alongside the People’s Protection Units.
The U.S.-supported militia group frequently recruits American fighters but is a contentious point of disdain for Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told President Trump in May that he will “never” accept the YGP.