Dane Partridge, a 34-year-old man from Idaho who fought as a volunteer soldier in Ukraine, died on Tuesday from injuries sustained during a Russian attack in Luhansk.
The Ukrainian government has recruited people with military experience to join the International Legion for the Territorial Defense of Ukraine. At least four other US citizens have been killed fighting in Ukraine, based on reports from families and the state department.
As a former US army infantryman, Partridge said he felt “spiritually called” to volunteer, said his sister, Jenny Corry. He flew to Poland on a one-way ticket in April, his rucksack packed with body armor, a helmet and tactical gear.
“Made it to the embassy, getting on a bus for the border,” Partridge wrote on Facebook on 27 April. “From this point on I will not likely be giving locations or actions for opsec reasons. I will let you all know I’m alive.”
Partridge joined a unit that included volunteers from other countries, Corry said. The unit was in Severodonetsk, a city in the Luhansk region, when Partridge was hit in the head with shrapnel during an attack by Russian fighting vehicles, Corry said.
The unit had no stretchers and was still under attack, Corry said, but soldiers carried Partridge out on a blanket and loaded him and others into a truck.
“I have a picture of the truck,” Corry said. The photo shows a drab-painted pickup with shredded rubber hanging off the wheel hubs. All but one of the tires were destroyed in the rush to safety.
“As a family, we really like that picture of the vehicle – it speaks to the bravery of how they tried to save their men and the way they pushed that vehicle to its last leg just to get to the hospital,” Corry said. “It speaks volumes.”
Partridge leaves five young children. Corry deflected questions about the children and other parts of Partridge’s life, saying the family had agreed to focus on his military service, out of respect to those “still living and still affected by his personal life”.
“We want to just focus on the good that he did and don’t want to mention any personal things,” Corry said.
Partridge was the youngest of five children, his father a member of the US air force. He grew into a gregarious man with a booming voice and a joking personality, his sister said. He enlisted in 2006 and served in Baghdad from 2007 to 2009 before leaving the military in 2012.
“He was a Humvee driver,” Corry said, “and when he was training they told him that if he tried to save himself his men would likely be killed, but if he saved his men then he would most likely be killed. That was something that sat deeply with him.”
Corry believed the adrenaline, sense of purpose and heightened feeling of service drew Partridge to Ukraine.
“It was almost as if he could tell he had a greater purpose to fulfill,” she said. “Sometimes it was harder for him to mesh in the civilian world.”
Partridge was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and believed he was spiritually called to join the fight, Corry said. He stayed with Corry before going to Ukraine. After he left, she found his camouflage baseball cap in her laundry room. It was strange, she said, because he never left things lying around.
“I just kind of set it to the side and it sat there for a while,” she said, pausing for a shaky breath. “And the day I decided to pick it up and wear it because I wanted to feel close to him is the day that he died.
“We’re sad but because of the circumstances it was already a thought that he could pass away. It wasn’t like we were blindsided. In a way, it was something that we had to understand when he went over there.”
Partridge was in a coma on life support for eight days. Family members had a chance to say goodbye long-distance, Corry said. The family is raising money to try to bring Partridge’s remains home to Blackfoot, Idaho. They also hope to raise money to replace the truck his unit used to bring him to hospital, and to buy other supplies.
“We just want to do something to pay the men back,” Corry said.
Source : The Guardian