Former Marine Corps officer Grady Kurpasi is the third American to go missing in Ukraine, his wife, Heeson Kim, told The Washington Post on Thursday evening. Two other American veterans who have recently lost contact with family are also feared to have been captured by Russian forces.
Third American missing in Ukraine identified as Marine veteran
The State Department said earlier Thursday that a third American had gone missing several weeks ago but did not name him. CNN first confirmed Kurpasi’s identity.
Heath said that Kurpasi’s cellphone signal was recently traced to the vicinity of a large shopping mall in the Kherson and Mykolaiv regions. He did not provide more detail. The Washington Post could not independently verify that claim.
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Kurpasi lived in New York City during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and joined the Marines shortly after, Heath said. He called Kurpasi, who was his platoon commander between 2012 and 2014, a “great man” who has always “led from the front and led by example.”
During his 20 years of military service, Kurpasi took part in three combat tours in Iraq and was awarded a Purple Heart, according to his service record provided to The Post. The linguistics graduate from the University of California at Los Angeles received a scholarship from the Pat Tillman Foundation, which provides education grants to promising leaders with a military background, in 2009.
While many foreigners volunteered to fight Russia alongside the Ukrainian military, Heath said Kurpasi had originally intended to help civilians. He “fell into” a combat role, Heath said. “He did end up … serving and getting some fights. But that wasn’t his priority.”
A 22-year-old Marine Corps veteran, Willy Joseph Cancel, is believed to be the first American fighter killed in the war. Earlier this month, Alexander J. Drueke, 39, and Andy Tai Huynh, 27, went missing near the northeastern border city of Kharkiv. An unverified photo of the two men circulated on social media Thursday. Their families said that they did not have confirmation of the image’s authenticity but they were in close contact with the State Department.
Dan Lamothe, Timothy Bella and Abigail Hauslohner contributed to this report.