Missing Marine Vet Confirmed Killed in Ukraine

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U.S. Marine Capt. Grady Kurpasi speaks to students.
Then U.S. Marine Capt. Grady Kurpasi speaks to students during an assembly at Swansboro Elementary School as part of the Adopt-A-School program in Swansboro, N.C., Jan. 25, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron Douds)

The family of a highly decorated Marine officer who went missing in the early days of Ukraine's call for foreign volunteer fighters now says the man died fighting Russian forces.

Grady Kurpasi, who went missing in June 2022, was killed in action, according to a GoFundMe crowdfunding post made by a friend of the family. The post does not provide a date or estimate of when he died.

"Grady went to train soldiers but due to the intensity of the war and the need for combat-experienced leaders, Grady ended up leading a squad into battle," the post read.

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Kurpasi is survived by his wife -- Heeson Kim -- and their 14-year-old daughter.

A spokeswoman for GoFundMe confirmed that the fundraiser is "verified and all funds will be safely delivered to Captain Kurpasi's wife, Heeson Kim."

Kurpasi's death would make him at least the seventh American killed in the conflict with Ukraine, according to a tally by The Associated Press.

Kurpasi had a long and storied service in the Marine Corps that spanned almost the entire length of the Global War on Terror.

According to details released by the Marine Corps, Kurpasi enlisted just two months after Sept. 11, 2001, and deployed to Iraq three times. Along the way, he earned a Combat Action Ribbon and a Purple Heart, as well as several Navy and Marine Corps Achievement and Commendation medals.

The post, which went up Saturday, said that Kurpasi "went from working as a computer programmer making excellent money to being an Marine Infantry Assaultman ... at the age of 29." He didn't stay in the infantry long, though. The post said that after his first deployment, Kurpasi became a Marine scout sniper and deployed several more times to Iraq.

Records show Kurpasi was eventually selected to become an infantry officer and made the rank of captain in 2015. He retired from the Corps in November 2021.

"After retiring from the Marine Corps, Grady felt obligated to assist in Ukraine as they defended their country against the Russian invasion," the post read.

Kurpasi's disappearance was reported within days of the news that two other American veterans also went missing in the war-torn country. Alexander Drueke, a 39-year-old Army veteran, had served as a "chemical operations specialist" and left the service as a staff sergeant, and Andy Huynh, a 27-year-old "engineer equipment operator," had been a corporal in the Marines.

The pair were later confirmed to have been captured by Russian-backed forces and released in a prisoner swap after several months.

The last American known to have died in the conflict was Daniel W. Swift, a former member of the Navy SEALs who, according to official records, deserted the service in March 2019. His death was reported in January 2023.

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at konstantin.toropin@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

Related: How 2 American Veterans Ended Up in Ukraine, Prisoners of Russian-Armed Militants

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