‘He was do­ing what he thought was right’ in war

St. Mary’s man died af­ter find­ing right fit with Kur­dish cause on­line

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JOHN WHAR­TON jwhar­ton@somd­news.com

Wil­liam Sav­age ful­filled a dream of mil­i­tary ser­vice by serv­ing in the war-torn Mid­dle East, where he ar­rived early last year and died this month while help­ing other peo­ple get to safety.

Child­hood med­i­cal is­sues de­nied Sav­age en­list­ment in the U.S. mil­i­tary ser­vices, a guardian and fam­ily mem­ber said this week, and a trip over­seas two years ago to join the French For­eign Le­gion was un­suc­cess­ful.

But Sav­age found and re­searched on­line the strug­gle of Kur­dish forces against the Is­lamic State in Syria, and join­ing that ef­fort by all ac­counts was a good fit for the for­mer stu­dent from Great Mills High School.

Sav­age, 27, main­tained some con­tact with loved ones back in St. Mary’s through email, but even com­ments about com­ing home didn’t mean he’d stay in the United States.

“I’m pretty sure he would have gone back,”

said Brenna Sav­age, his 29-year-old sis­ter who now lives out­side Wash­ing­ton, D.C. “That was re­ally what he wanted to do.”

Wil­liam Sav­age wanted to get into mil­i­tary ser­vice since he was a young teenager, ac­cord­ing to Mary Slade, who was a babysit­ter car­ing for him dur­ing his child­hood, and be­came his fi­nan­cial guardian when his mother died in 2007. They con­tin­ued to keep in touch af­ter he be­came an adult, and she wit­nessed his per­sis­tent ef­forts to serve in uni­form.

“As a child [in his tod­dler years], he had a his­tory of seizures,” Slade said this week at her ac­count­ing busi­ness in Leonard­town. “Be­cause it was in his med­i­cal his­tory, ... the mil­i­tary wouldn’t take him. He did all the train­ing. We could never get him into any branch of the ser­vice.”

Af­ter leav­ing high school, Sav­age earned a GED and also took cour­ses at the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land and St. Mary’s Col­lege of Mary­land, while liv­ing at an apart­ment off Wil­lows Road.

“He didn’t have a ve­hi­cle,” Slade said. “He rode his bike or walked to col­lege ever y day.”

Sav­age stud­ied to­ward work­ing in the field of crim­i­nal jus­tice or po­lit­i­cal sci­ence, as an al­ter­na­tive to his hoped-for ca­reer in the armed ser­vices.

“He was get­ting good grades. I just don’t think it sat­is­fied what he was look­ing for,” Slade said. “We tried to find some­thing else for him, [but] his pas­sion was to go into the mil­i­tary. I wish the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary had taken him. He would have been a tremen­dous as­set for them.”

In­stead, Sav­age flew to France in De­cem­ber 2013 to join that coun­try’s for­eign le­gion, only to re­turn six months later.

“They weren’t re­cruit­ing at that time,” Brenna Sav­age said.

Her brother worked at jobs in­clud­ing as a butcher at a gro­cery in St. Mary’s, she said, and also spent some time with his fa­ther in North Carolina, be­fore again get­ting on a plane in the be­gin­ning of last year to join the Kur­dish forces in Syria.

“He met peo­ple on­line and was able to find out about ev­ery­thing that was go­ing on over there,” his sis­ter said.

Wil­liam Sav­age’s email com­mu­ni­ca­tions with his fam­ily did not delve much into his day-to-day ex­pe­ri­ences, his sis­ter said. “I think he didn’t want me to worry about him,” she said, but she learned that the highly struc­tured com­mand he was serv­ing in­cluded a leave pol­icy to visit Swe­den and meet a woman who be­came a girl­friend.

The soldier’s ini­tial en­list­ment was to end at the be­gin­ning of this year, and was ex­tended to this month.

“In May,” his sis­ter said, “our fam­ily dog passed away. I let him know. I sent him an email, and he sent me one back, ... [that] hope­fully he would see us soon. That’s the last email I got from him.”

Wil­liam Sav­age was wounded on Aug. 10 in Man­bij, Syria, his sis­ter said, and he died later that day.

“He was clear­ing a build­ing, and he was get­ting peo­ple out of the build­ing, and it was hit,” she said, ad­ding that ef­forts to save her brother’s life im­me­di­ately com­menced at the scene. “They couldn’t save him.”

Macer Gif­ford, an Amer­i­can also fight­ing against ISIS in Syria, posted an ac­count on Face­book of how Wil­liam Sav­age, known there as He­val Amed, once re­acted af­ter obey­ing a com­man­der’s or­der to cross a road­way dur­ing heavy enemy gun­fire.

“I was sur­prised to see a big smile on his face,” Gif­ford wrote. “I was scared for him, but he didn’t seem to have a care in the world!”

Brenna Sav­age said that ar­range­ments con­tinue to bring her brother’s re­mains back to the United States for a me­mo­rial ser­vice.

“I was proud of my brother,” she said this week. “He was a hero. He was do­ing what he thought was right.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Wil­liam Sav­age found his chance to serve as a soldier early last year.

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