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Young soldier who deserted Portuguese barracks to fight ISIS given hero’s burial

The tragic end to an idealistic quest to “be part of history, not just read about it in a book” saw 22-year-old Mário Nunes given a hero’s burial in Portalegre over the weekend, with more than 100 people following the hearse carrying his coffin.

The young fighter who deserted his Air Force barracks in Beja in February 2014 was killed battling ISIS in Syria in May.

Intense diplomatic efforts by Portuguese authorities managed to recover Nunes’ body and see it shipped back to his heartbroken family without any of them risking their own lives to travel to a war zone and try and accomplish this on their own.

Nunes, who spent most of his life growing up in the Algarve, died fighting for the Kurdish militia YPG against Islamic State in Syria.

He told national weekly Sábado, a year before his death, that he preferred to die “rather than do nothing against IS”.

Fellow YPG fighters have hailed him as a martyr and, according to newspaper reports, there is an internet campaign underway to get Nunes posthumously awarded the Order of Liberty.

Ironically, if Nunes had returned to Portugal alive, he ran the risk of being court-martialled for having gone AWOL from his unit (click here) 17 months ago.

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