The US State Department has acknowledged that former Marine Captain Grady Kurpasi, who volunteered to serve in the Ukrainian military is missing in action. Heesom Kim, Karpasi’s wife told CNN that she hasn’t heard from him since the end of April, nearly two months ago.
He lost contact with other troops during a firefight with Russian forces on April 28 in southern Ukraine near the city of Kherson. He has not been heard from since and his body has not been found.
Two other ex-American servicemen from Alabama were reported missing and captured by Russian or Russian-backed proxy forces north of Kharkiv. Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, and Alexander Drueke, 39, were reported as missing in action about a week ago. Photos emerged from a Russian blogger with the two Americans appearing to be bound in the back of a Russian truck.
White House spokesman John Kirby said, “We’ll do the best we can to monitor this and see what we can learn about it,” he said. “Obviously, if it’s true, we’ll do everything we can to get them safely back home.”
State Department spokesperson Ned Price told media members, “We’re closely monitoring the situation, we are in contact with Ukrainian authorities, as well as with the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the families of the two reported missing U.S. citizens.”
The White House said “it is working very hard” to learn more about the missing Americans and to possibly confirm the reports with Russian authorities.
There are concerns among the families of the missing as Russia has said that they don’t recognize the rights of any foreigners fighting with Ukraine under the Geneva Conventions, and will treat them as mercenaries. Last week, a show trial conducted by the Russian-proxy separatist government in Donetsk sentenced two Britons and a Moroccan to death for serving with Ukraine’s armed forces.
Kurpasi Joined the USMC After 9/11, Felt Compelled to Help Ukraine:
Kurpasi joined the Marine Corps in the aftermath of 9/11 and served in several deployments overseas before retiring in November 2021. His last duty station was Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
According to the report by CNN, a friend of his was quoted as saying he wanted to help the Ukrainian people, but didn’t plan on taking an active combat role.
“For him personally, he has a skill set that he feels he can give back,” George Heath said. “He wanted to go and help the Ukrainian people. He wasn’t really planning on fighting.”
He arrived in Ukraine on March 7 and was assigned to Ukraine’s Foreign Legion which consists of foreign fighters who have joined the Ukrainian military. Despite his desire not to serve in front-line combat, he was manning an observation post in the Kherson area on April 26, when it came under fire.
Kurpasi and another soldier went forth to investigate and radioed back for Ukrainian soldiers to fire back. That was the last anyone heard from him and was reported missing in action on April 28.
Two Alabama Veterans Served Together in Kharkiv:
The two Alabama men who have been reported captured had served together in the area north of Kharkiv. Alex Drueke, 39, spent 12 years in the Army, and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, spent four years in the Marine Corps. Both felt the urge to help the Ukrainians.
Drueke told his mother Lois that he was going to Ukraine to help train the Ukrainian troops on the equipment being furnished by the United States. Huynh, according to his fiancée Joy Black, was torn over the plight of the people suffering from the Russian invasion.
The two men were part of a Ukrainian intelligence unit and had only been members of the unit for a day when they were tasked with conducting a reconnaissance mission, according to Chris Bowyer, who was also a member of the unit before being wounded in action and returned to the US. Bowyer said that he continues to maintain contact with members of the unit still in Ukraine.
The village to be reconnoitered was supposed to be secure but the men walked straight into a Russian assault on June 8. That’s when contact was lost with them. The photo of those two then appeared in a Russian blog with their hands appearing to be bound behind their backs.
Russia Didn’t Invade Ukraine, Says Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov:
In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov presented an unapologetic, stark reminder that Moscow doesn’t care what the rest of the world feels about the Putin regime and the war in Ukraine.
“Russia is not squeaky clean. Russia is what it is. And we are not ashamed of showing who we are,” he said to the BBC. He also insisted that Russia didn’t invade Ukraine.
“We didn’t invade Ukraine,” he said, when also repeating that the presence of Nazis was paramount to Moscow.
“We declared a special military operation because we had absolutely no other way of explaining to the West that dragging Ukraine into NATO was a criminal act.”
When asked about the death sentence to two Britons and a Moroccan citizen, and the impression that the West had regarding it, Lavrov responded with a clear message.
“I am not interested in the eyes of the West at all. I am only interested in international law. According to international law, mercenaries are not recognized as combatants.”
Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He has served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com and other military news organizations, he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for over 10 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts