50 Americans have died in Ukraine since the Russian invasion

Nearly 40 of the Americans killed in Ukraine are U.S. military veterans.
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Americans killed in Ukraine
A U.S. flag flies over the grave of an American citizen and a fighter with the International Legion of Ukraine, who was killed in combat against Russian forces. (Dominika Zarzycka/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

At least 50 American citizens have died in Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of the country in February 2022, according to a list compiled by Task & Purpose from public sources. Of those 50, the vast majority served at least briefly in the U.S. military, some for long careers.

Most Americans killed in Ukraine went to join the fighting. Others worked to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need while others documented the war. Many were killed in direct fighting with Russian forces or in attacks that struck behind the front lines while others died outside combat, such as in car crashes.

Several of the families whose loved ones have died in Ukraine have been targeted by vicious online trolls, often after their names appear in media reports of their deaths.  Task & Purpose will continue to report on American military veterans killed in Ukraine, but will take steps in that coverage to protect their identities.

Nearly 40 of the 50 Americans who have died in Ukraine were veterans of the U.S. military. More than 20 of the fallen were Army veterans, including a former Green Beret; about 12 served in the Marine Corps and another attended Marine recruit training for roughly five weeks; and one of those killed was a former Navy SEAL. Some of the veterans completed fairly typical military careers, while others separated after finding trouble in uniform. But all felt called to Ukraine.  

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The remains of several Americans killed while fighting remain on the battlefield, and it is unknown if they will ever be recovered and returned to their families.

U.S. government officials have not said publicly how many Americans have been killed in Ukraine during the war.

“We offer our condolences to the families of all whose lives have been lost as a result of Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine,” a State Department spokesperson told Task & Purpose. “Our ability to verify reports of deaths of U.S. citizens in Ukraine is extremely limited. In addition, not all U.S. citizen deaths may be reported to U.S. authorities. For these reasons, we are unable to provide a definitive number of all U.S. citizens who have been killed.”

“We reiterate our message that U.S. citizens should not travel to Ukraine due to the active armed conflict,” the spokesperson added.

Despite the State Department’s warning, a number of Americans continue to fight the Russians in Ukraine. They are in a shooting war even though their country is not. One unit they serve with is “Chosen Company,” which is attached to Ukraine’s 59th Motorized Brigade.

Army veteran Ryan O’Leary, who continues to lead foreign volunteers in Chosen Company, told Task & Purpose last year that if the U.S. military fights a future war against an enemy that uses trenches the way Russian forces have in Ukraine, it would be a costly month or two for American forces before they adapted to the challenges of 21st Century trench warfare.

When the war began nearly two years ago, many veterans went to Ukraine to fight the invading Russians or help Ukrainians in need of food and medical care.  Many of those veterans told friends and families that they saw the conflict as a ‘good war’ with a moral clarity that they felt the Iraq and Afghanistan wars lacked.

But the mood inside the United States toward Ukraine has radically shifted since February 2022. After the roughly $44 billion in military assistance that the United States provided Ukraine became exhausted, several Republican lawmakers have recently vowed to end any further help for the Ukrainians.

On Thursday, the Senate passed a procedural vote to consider President Joe Biden’s request for $61.4 billion in additional military aid for Ukraine, but the measure’s future in the House of Representatives is uncertain.

One Marine veteran killed in Ukraine often cited the axiom  “All that’s necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” 

That concisely sums up what has drawn so many Americans to fight in Ukraine.

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