Calgarians honour John Robert Gallagher, Canadian who died in Syria fighting ISIS
Lily Gallagher found comfort at the vigil honouring her brother
Dozens of Calgarians turned out Sunday afternoon, many from the Kurdish community, to honour a Canadian who died last year fighting alongside Kurdish forces in Syria.
John Robert Gallagher, a former Canadian soldier, was killed by an ISIS fighter in November. While he received a hero's welcome in Ontario that month, many wanted to pay their respects in a Calgary ceremony.
Lily Gallagher found comfort at the vigil honouring her brother.
"We were living at home together before he left and he was just going crazy that he wasn't doing anything," Gallagher explained.
"He was researching how to go over there for months before he could actually leave and he just felt stir crazy and he was angry that no one else in the world was doing anything."
It was a move that surprised many … a 32-year-old Canadian going off alone to join Kurdish forces.
Only months later, he was killed allegedly by an ISIS militant.
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Those who knew him understand why he'd put himself in the line of fire
Gavin John, a freelance journalist, met Gallagher in Iraq.
"I think deep down he believed a good Canadian means you're standing up for human rights overseas," John said.
"As a Canadian if we believe in human rights, if we believe in freedom, and believe in standing up and fighting for freedom … that's why he fought with the Kurds. He saw this parallel between being a Canadian and our freedoms and what the Kurds are trying to do in combating ISIS."
Most of those honouring Gallagher, are members of Calgary's Kurdish community.
Ali Waissi said Gallagher's actions were selfless.
"He committed his life to defend Kurds, to liberate towns and cities. That was very sacred for a lot of people," Waissi said.
Jamal Suleman wants Gallagher's ambition to inspire others.
"We were very proud of his act, he was defending freedom and humanity. Especially people who need his support in the area, in the region," Suleman said.
"This is encouragement for the international community to stop the darkness of ISIS."
For Lily Gallagher, her brother's words resonate with her as much as his actions.
"Something he once said in an interview was, 'If you have even the smallest amount of empathy, you can't just sit by and let something like this happen,'" Gallagher recalled.
"I think about that every day."
With files from Kate Adach