Another American citizen has died fighting with the International Legion in Ukraine’s war against Russian aggression.

Twenty-Seven Years Old

Christopher James Campbell, a native Floridian, was twenty-seven years old at the time of his death. He was a United States Armed Forces veteran, having served in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne Division. Towards the beginning of Ukraine’s war with Russia, Campbell served with the Azov special forces. Later, according to the New Voice of Ukraine, he served with the International Legion, an organization of experienced fighters founded by President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Campbell was married to Ivana, the daughter of well-known Ukrainian director, actor, cinematographer, and producer Oles Sanin.

In a letter to the press, Sanin wrote, “Thank you to everyone who honored the memory of my family member, the husband of my daughter Ivana, Christopher James Campbell. Thank you for your deep sorrow and honoring his memory.”

Campbell’s funeral service in Kyiv, May 5th, 2023. Screenshot from YouTube and Associated Press

Mr. Sanin continued, “According to his last wish, Chris was buried in Ukraine, the country he loved and where he found the love for which he laid down his life.” That wish was kept, and Campbell’s funeral took place at Saint Michael’s Cathedral in center city Kyiv.

Several members of the International Legion attended the service, and members of the regular Ukrainian Armed Forces carried his coffin (draped with the Ukrainian flag). Following the service, the folded flag was presented to his wife.

A Big Move

Shortly after the war in Ukraine started, Campbell abruptly quit school in the United States and sold all of his belongings. He next moved halfway around the world to Ukraine. Not surprisingly, his friends and family wondered why.

One man, however, had an idea of what motivated the young man. In an interview with NPR, Nelson Rumsey, Campbell’s US Army platoon sergeant, said of his soldier:

“He would always say, ‘I feel like I have a unique ability to help. I have the knowledge to be here to fight, and I have the ability to help people.'”

Rumsey also said that Campbell was “a cut above a lot of other people when it comes to morals and a sense of duty.” 

Screenshot of Campbell’s wife at his memorial service.

When he arrived in the war-torn country, he knew no one there. Before long, he met Ivana, the woman who was to become his wife. This was in the early days of the war, at an event for volunteers. At the time, Ivana was volunteering her time to provide aid to the troops.

She recalls asking him why he was there, and that he replied, “Because it is right.”  Over several months of intense fighting, Ivana noted, “I saw that he changed a lot. Every man, the horrors which they see, it’s awful.” 

And she was right, war changes those who fight them. Some chose to keep those horrors inside, not visible to the greater world, but at night, in the quiet of one’s bed, the memories often return, as vivid as the day they happened to torture the former warrior.

The following quote hit this writer particularly hard:

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“You don’t write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid’s burnt socks lying in the middle of the road.”  – Richard Price

One of Nine

Campbell was one of at least nine Americans killed thus far in the 15-month-long conflict. Last month, two Canadians were killed in Ukraine by Russian artillery.

May he rest in peace.

** To read a thought-provoking and moving compilation of stories told by those who experienced World War II firsthand, click here.