ORLANDO, Fla. — A former Marine believed so strongly in the war against the Islamic State group that he secretly traveled to Syria, where he was killed this month while fighting for a Kurdish militia group.
David Taylor, a 25-year-old former Florida resident, had kept his plans to join the Kurdish group a secret from his family and only told a high school friend, who he swore to secrecy. Taylor's father said Tuesday that he didn't even know of his son's plans until after he had arrived in Syria last spring and was training with the group known as YPG.
"I got an email and he said, 'Pops, don't worry. I'm with the YPG,'" David Taylor Sr. told The Associated Press from his West Virginia home. "He said, 'I'm doing the right thing. It's for their freedom.'"
Taylor Sr. said when his son set his mind on something, he did it.
"There was no middle ground. He wasn't wishy-washy," the father said.
A Kurdish militia group released a video saying Taylor was "martyred fighting ISIS' barbarism" on July 16.
The U.S. State Department said in a statement that it was aware of reports of a U.S. citizen being killed while fighting in Syria but offered no further comment. Taylor's dad said the family was told about the death last weekend by a U.S. consular official.
Taylor's high school friend emailed the father after he learned of the death. The friend said Taylor told him during a visit to St. Petersburg Beach, Florida, last February that he believed the Islamic State group needed to be stopped.
"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," the friend, Alex Cintron, wrote in an email 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.
Taylor's father shared the email with AP on Tuesday. Cintron didn't respond to a message for comment sent via social media.
Cintron said in the email that Taylor died from an improvised explosive device. The YPG video offered no details on how Taylor died.
Taylor grew up in Ocala, Florida, located about 80 miles northwest of Orlando. He attended college in Florida and West Virginia before joining the Marines. He was deployed in Afghanistan, Japan, South Korea and spent time in Jordan before he was discharged last year, said David Taylor Sr.
After his discharge, he came to the United States and visited family and friends in West Virginia, Philadelphia and Florida.
Last spring, he asked his father to drive him to the airport because he had decided to visit Ireland, where his family has ancestral ties.
Taylor Sr. received periodic updates from his son about his travels in Europe until there was a period of silence for several weeks. Soon afterward, the elder Taylor received an email from his son, saying he had joined the Kurdish militia group.
The consular official told Taylor Sr. that the YPG is paying to transport Taylor's body back to the United States.
"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."
Matt Yee in Washington contributed to this report.