Punk Rock and an AK-47: How One American Gave His Life to Fight ISIS

By Published on August 8, 2016

Jordan MacTaggart was once a frustrated 21-year-old rebel seeking purpose in his life, but after traveling to Syria to fight the Islamic State, he found a purpose worth dying for.

MacTaggart was killed fighting with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) near the ISIS-held city of Manbij. The ongoing campaign is considered one of the most important ongoing battles in Syria, but it was not MacTaggart’s first firefight.

Last year, a wounded MacTaggart was desperately taking cover behind a pile of rocks as ISIS fighters were firing on his position. With a bullet in his right thigh, running back to the YPG line was not an option. As a convoy of YPG vehicles came to pick up the wounded, it appeared that MacTaggart was saved. When they failed to see him, he recognized his fate. After the sun set on the Syrian desert, he began to record a cell phone video of his final goodbye to his friends, family and and fellow Kurdish fighters.

“If I’m about to die, I just want to say… I don’t know,” said a bloodied MacTaggart in the recording. “If this is it, I don’t regret it. I did what I had to do. I believe in this… Don’t let it be in vain… It’s probably past 8 o’clock… One moment at a time. Don’t let the revolution die.”

Despite his wounds and desperate position, MacTaggart would survive the night, eventually he was able to get to his feet and drag his wounded leg back to the YPG line.

After spending months fighting with ISIS, MacTaggart would return to his native Colorado in October 2015. He returned to normal civilian life, but admitted in an article for Boulder Weekly that he pined for the battlefield.

“I could live like that (war) forever,” MacTaggart told Boulder Weekly’s Nicole McNulty in December. “If you provide me housing, food and water and all I have to do is not get shot and kill those guys, I’ll do that for the rest of my life. I’m totally OK with this. It’s so much better. I’ll s*** in a hole and throw up on myself.”

The path of a warrior was a far cry from MacTaggart’s former life as a radical leftist kid from Castle Rock, Colorado. As a teenager, he once sported a 14-inch mohawk, combat boots and a bandana tied around his neck. After dropping out of high school and going through a self-destructive period of “insanity” riddled with drug use, MacTaggart realized he needed direction. He had never shown a particular interest in war or the military, but after researching the YPG and its mission, he decided to to join the fight against ISIS.

MacTaggart was a far cry from the typical soldier. When he first arrived for training in northern Iraq, he still wore his gauged earrings. YPG comrades would call him “jin,” Kurdish for “woman,” as it is unusual for men to wear earrings in Kurdish culture.

“Every other day I woke up and I had to go to work, but it wasn’t a purpose. I woke up and didn’t want to get out of bed,” MacTaggart told McNulty. “[In Syria] I woke up and was like, ‘I can’t wait to be bored and suffer because at least I’m doing something.’ Even though it was as bad as it was, it felt right. I liked it. I love being out there. It’s such a break from all this.”

An eager MacTaggart would eventually make his way back to Syria in January 2016 for his second combat tour with the YPG. He took to Facebook just days before leaving asking friends for a good place to buy parts for his AK-47 assault rifle, the standard weapon for Kurdish militia groups.

“This time when I go back, I don’t know how long I’ll be there,” he told Boulder Weekly. “Like, six months was nothing. I could be there for years.”

Mitchell Scott, one of MacTaggart’s fellow volunteers from Australia, took to Facebook to eulogize his fallen comrade.

“He’s the greatest bloke you’ll ever meet,” said Scott in a video posted to MacTaggart’s Facebook profile. He described MacTaggart as a selfless, no-nonsense soldier who never complained about the depressing conditions in Syria, unlike many of his fellow volunteers.

MacTaggart was a bold and complicated young man who passed away well before his time, but there is little doubt that he died with the purpose he sought in his life.


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Copyright 2016 Daily Caller News Foundation

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