Just days after two American fighters in Ukraine have reportedly gone missing, it has been discovered that a third American has also gone missing and that he is a US veteran. He has been identified as former US Marine veteran Grady Kurpasi.
According to his family and friends, he wanted to help in Ukraine in a non-military function but had ultimately found himself fighting alongside the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Kurpasi, 49, arrived in Ukraine on March 7 and made his way to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on March 21. He was assigned to guard an observation post somewhere near Kherson. It is believed that Russia has controlled Kherson since the early weeks of the war. It was around this time when Kurpasi was last heard from, exactly between April 23 and 24.
“For him personally, he has a skill set that he feels he can give back,” George Heath, a friend and former platoon member of Kurpasi, told CNN.
“He wanted to go and help the Ukrainian people. He wasn’t really planning on fighting.”
It is unclear whether Kurpasi joined the Ukrainian International Foreign Legion, but Heath confirms he was fighting alongside the Ukrainians. The last time he was heard from, Kurpasi and members of the foreign legion, who were also handling the post, were fired upon by the Russian forces on April 26. Unfortunately, it was reported that Kurpasi’s team had a hard time retaliating because of the limited arms they had at the time.
As for the scope of Kurapi’s mission, it was reportedly focused on recon work. He and his team were to leave the observation post, and “went to go investigate what was happening,” according to Heath. Kurpasi would then radio back to the Ukrainian military and signal to Ukraine to start firing back. This was the last thing Kurpasi would say before he went missing.
Retired U.S. Marine Capt. Grady Kurpasi has been identified as the third American volunteer fighter missing in #Ukraine, according to @ABCNews. https://t.co/YCcDSaH0fE pic.twitter.com/pw22kPNLIU
— Viktor Kovalenko (@MrKovalenko) June 19, 2022
The State Department had already informed Kurpasi’s wife, Heeson Kim, that her husband had gone missing on April 28. However, nobody has been found or identified as being Kurpasi; therefore the Ukrainians and the State Department classified the US veteran as “missing in action.”
“There are reports of one additional American whose whereabouts are unknown. I can’t speak to the specifics of that case. Unfortunately, we don’t know the full details of that case,” State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said in a press briefing.
Who Is Grady Kurpasi?
Kurpasi reportedly served with the US Marine Corps for over 20 years, having just retired last year in November. He was inspired to join the US Marines after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Kurpasi had four deployments during his career, wherein three of his assignments were to Iraq. Kurpasi, with his valiant efforts to fight for freedom, has become a decorated marine, obtaining the Good Conduct Medal three times, the National Defense Service Medal, the Purple Heart, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, and the Marine Corps Achievement Medal three times.
“He always led from the front. He always took care of his Marines,” Heath said, describing his former platoon commander as a “great leader” when Heath was a part of Kurpasi’s platoon from 2012 to 2014.
He went home to Wilmington, North Carolina after he retired from active military service. It was also revealed that he later applied to graduate school, specifically a Ph.D. program at Stanford University but did not get accepted. He was in the process of resubmitting his Ph.D. application during his outreach in Ukraine.
Read Next: 2nd American Killed in Ukraine, 3 Americans Still Captured by Pro-Russian Forces
What’s Next for the Missing Americans?
State Department Spokesperson Ned Price revealed that they were in contact with all the families of the three former US servicemen who were missing. However, he also notes that the US was not in touch with the Russian Government about these missing Americans because the US Government did not have a “credible reason” to believe they had been captured.
“As of today, we have not raised this yet with the Russian Federation. If we feel that such outreach through our embassy in Moscow or otherwise would be productive in terms of finding out more information on the whereabouts of these individuals, we won’t hesitate to do that,” Ned Price said through a press briefing.
“We likewise haven’t seen anything from the Russians indicating that two such individuals are in their custody. If the Russians were to claim that they had such individuals, I assume we would pursue that. If we had reason to believe, credible reason to believe that these individuals were in Russian custody, we would pursue that as appropriate.”
Kurpasi’s family believes he is not dead but captured as a POW. His family is currently doing their independent research on the whereabouts of Kurpasi through open-source networking, digging for information, and calling people regarding Grady.
“We know you are a strong bastard. Keep it up,” Kurpasi Family Spokesperson Don Turner said.
New Photograph and Videos of Drueke and Huynh
SOFREP reported a few days ago that two Americans were thought to be captured by the Russian forces. The two men, Alexander Drueke (39) and Andy Huyne (27) were reported to be captured while fighting alongside Ukrainian forces near Kharkiv.
A new photograph has emerged of the two men on Thursday as it had been circulating on Russian Telegram. They were photographed on the back of a Russian military truck, indirectly confirming that the Russians had captured them after much speculation. In the photograph, the two men had their hands behind their backs, which may indicate that their hands are tied. They seem to be in relatively good condition, seen without wounds or bruises. SOFREP could not identify when the photograph was taken.
“They said that there is a photograph that is being circulated on the Russian media. And they’re working hard to verify it,” Bunny Drueke, the mother of Alexander, said to CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Furthermore, videos of the two service members emerged on Russian state television last Friday. This confirms that they are indeed in Russian hands. The videos were shown on RT, a state-controlled television network. It was revealed that they are currently held captive by Russian-backed forces in Donbas.
UCRAINA | Pubblicato dalla televisione di Stato russa Rt il video dei due ex militari americani andati a combattere come volontari con le forze ucraine. Alexander Drueke: "Mamma sono vivo e voglio tornare a casa. #ANSAhttps://t.co/I4xAbPNoJ0 pic.twitter.com/GbjZ8BU9I0
— Agenzia ANSA (@Agenzia_Ansa) June 18, 2022
“Mom, I just want to let you know that I’m alive and that I hope to be back home as soon as I can be,” he said. “Love Diesel for me. Love you,” Drueke said. His family members divulged that Drueke included a keyword and a gesture to indicate that he was in good condition.
The two were later seen in videos sharing their “personal sentiments” on Russian television, seemingly echoing Kremlin propaganda. It’s hypothesized that they’re being forced to say these things.
“I now believe that there were propaganda from the West side, not specifically just America but the West as a whole… that Russian forces were indiscriminately killing civilians. And through my travels, I did not see that. When I was captured, my Russian captors treated me very humanely, they gave us water when we need them. At night time when we were in captivity, it got very cold, and they gave us blankets to keep warm,” Huynh said.
Alexander Drueke giving interview to RT, no doubt under duress. pic.twitter.com/uCZ0EX6RBH
— DivaKnevil Ⓥ 🏴 (@DivaKnevil) June 17, 2022
“Many of my fellow veterans like me who are thinking about coming to Ukraine, don’t. I don’t know why the West’s focus is just sending weapons weapons weapons, money money money. I think it’s so they don’t have to deal with the problem, there is a diplomatic solution to this problem somewhere. But it’s going to take some time to get there. And I just think at this time they are not willing to deal with it, so they’d rather just give a bunch of stuff to Ukraine and let it be Ukraine’s problem,” Drueke said.
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