David Taylor, nom de guerre Zafer Qerecox, is shown in military fatigues bearing a YPG patch. Photo: YPG Press
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — A US citizen who previously served as a Marine was killed while fighting alongside the mostly Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) against ISIS in Raqqa, Syria.
“American volunteer David Taylor was martyred in action July 16 while fearlessly fighting Daesh (ISIS) in Raqqa,” the YPG press office announced on Tuesday, using another term for ISIS.
The Associated Press reported that a high school friend of Taylor’s, Alex Cintron, shared an email with David Taylor’s father, explaining that he died of an improvised explosive device.
The Kurdish-led YPG form about half of the 50,000-strong Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) partnered with the US-led global coalition to defeat ISIS.
They are currently fighting to retake the de facto ISIS capital of Raqqa.
The 25-year-old who was living in Florida joined the YPG in May 2017, taking the nom de guerre Zafer Qerecox.
Taylor explained in an undated video that he received an education in northern Syria dealing with “ideology, weapons and various tactics.”
“I joined the YPG to fight ISIS and do whatever I can to help the revolution here,” Taylor said referring to the YPG’s political ambitions to set up an autonomous region in northern Syria known as “Rojava.”
Taylor then read what appears to be a prepared statement in Kurdish saying, “Long live Kurdistan. Long live the YPG. Long live the YPJ. Long live Leader Abo.”
YPJ is the women’s branch of the YPG, while Abo is a nickname for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) founder, Abdullah Ocalan, who is imprisoned in Turkey.
YPG denies it has any organic links with the PKK, a named terrorist organization by Turkey and the United States.
The YPG described Taylor as “well, liked, generous and caring,” adding he was “a professional at his job.”
His father, David Taylor Sr., told The Associated Press of his last communication with his son.
"I got an email and he said, 'Pops, don't worry. I'm with the YPG,'" David Taylor Sr. said. "He said, 'I'm doing the right thing. It's for their freedom.’ ”
Taylor's dad told AP the family learned of his son's death last weekend from a US consular official.
"There was no middle ground. He wasn't wishy-washy," the father so described his son.
The US State Department said in a statement that it was aware of reports of a US citizen being killed while fighting in Syria.
Taylor’s friend, Cintron, explained that the Marine veteran was passionately opposed to ISIS.
"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," Cintron wrote to Taylor's parents.
"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 said in the email, according to AP.
Taylor’s father said his son was deployed in Afghanistan, Japan, South Korea and spent time in Jordan before he was discharged last year.
"He loved his country. He loved democracy," the father said. "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 announced in early June the deaths of three other Western volunteers among their ranks.
They included Robert Grodt of California, Nicholas Warden of New York, and Luke Rutter of the United Kingdom.