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‘Exasperating’: Families struggle to bring home remains of US veterans fallen in Ukraine


Daily Caller News Foundation

At least 16 U.S. veterans have died while fighting or conducting humanitarian work for Ukraine as families have struggled to bring their remains home, The Washington Post reported.

U.S veterans who fight or work in Ukraine do so as private citizens, disregarding the Biden administration’s discouragement of U.S. citizens traveling to Ukraine for any purpose due to the risk of capture or death at the hands of Russian forces. Yet, some still opted to travel to Ukraine and paid with their lives, leaving family members to seek independent help in repatriating the remains of their loved ones amid frustration with the State Department, according to the Post.

The mother of retired Marine Corps sergeant Cooper Andrews, who died on April 19, told the Post she has turned to the Ukrainian community in her home state and Europeans with connections to Andrews’ unit for help and updates after finding interactions with the State Department to be “frustrating, inconsistent” and “exasperating.”

A State Department spokesperson told the post the agency “takes its role in such a situation very seriously and strives to maintain communication.”

But, the State Department proved “absolutely awful” in searching for another Marine Corps veteran, Grady Kurpasi, George Heath told the Post. Kurpasi’s family had turned to outside organizations and volunteers, including Heath, to find Kurpasi after he disappeared while on a reconnaissance mission in April 2022.

The State Department spokesperson said it worked closely with Ukrainian authorities to hunt for Kurpasi’s whereabouts, according to the Post. Kurpasi’s body was returned home in May 2023.

“I expected nothing less from them after the botched Afghanistan withdrawal. It was probably beneficial in a way their incompetence wasn’t involved with getting Grady home,” Heath told the Post.

In May, Yevgeny Prighozin, the head of the Russian guns-for-hire Wagner Group, claimed to have killed ex-Green Beret Nick Maimer in Bahkmut. Prighozin, in a video, stood over what appeared to be Maimer’s body, holding the fallen soldier’s Idaho driver’s license and Veterans Affairs card and taunting the U.S., according to CNN.

Ukrianian forces have received Maimer’s remains and expect to transport them to the U.S. soon, according to the Post. “It’s amazing, concerning the circumstances,” Paul Maimer, Nick’s father, told the Post. “There can be some closure.”

An unknown number of U.S. veterans arrived in Ukraine of their own initiative after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, some to participate in combat with the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the Post reported. Others came to provide humanitarian support, help train Ukrainian troops and ferry resources to and from Ukrainian units.

“U.S. citizens who travel to Ukraine, especially with the purpose of participating in fighting there, they face significant risks, including the very real risk of capture or death,” former State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at a press briefing in March 2022. The United States “is not able to provide assistance to evacuate U.S. citizens from Ukraine, including those Americans who may decide to travel to Ukraine to participate in the ongoing war.”

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Republished with permission from Daily Caller News Foundation

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