US Army veteran killed in Ukraine ‘fought for good over evil’

Like many American military veterans who have died fighting in Ukraine, David Lee Cote felt drawn there after the Russian invasion
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David Lee Cote In Ukraine
Army National Guard veteran David Lee Cote was killed in Ukraine on Oct. 1. (Photo courtesy of Vicki McQuade)

Another American military veteran has been confirmed to have died fighting in Ukraine. David Lee Cote, who served in the Michigan Army National Guard from 2008 to 2014, was killed by a Russian drone on Oct. 1, his mother Vicki McQuade told Task & Purpose.

“I want my son to be remembered as someone who cared about others,” McQuade said. “He fought for good over evil. He stopped and fed the dogs, played with the children. He met and talked with the Ukrainian people.”

Cote, 35, was living in New Baltimore, Michigan before leaving for Ukraine, a friend told Task & Purpose. He had previoulsy served as a wheeled vehicle mechanic in the National Guard, and deployed to Iraq from September 2010 to September 2011, according to the National Guard Bureau.

Cote held the rank of specialist when he left the National Guard and his military awards include the Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Combat and Special Skill Badge Driver

and Mechanic Badge, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with M Device.

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Cote fell on hard times when he returned from his deployment to Iraq and ran into legal problems, his mother said. But the war in Ukraine provided him with a sense of purpose that he had not felt in a long time.

“He changed units many times, until he found where he believed he was called to be,” McQuade said. “He lost most of the men in his unit, including his back up guy sitting right next to him when he took a bullet. He lost his brother from Belarus earlier this year. That one was really hard. He told me at one time that his commanding officer told him he was the longest surviving American that had been continuously fighting.”

David Lee Cote American Ukraine
David Lee Cote was killed by a Russian drone strike in Ukraine on Oct. 1. He previously served with the Michigan Army National Guard and deployed to Iraq from September 2010 to September 2011. (Photo courtesy of Vicki McQuade)

In June of 2022, Cote left for Ukraine, McQuade said. He went on to fight in the trenches around Bakhmut, the site of a major battle between Ukrainian and Russian forces.

She said he also once found himself surrounded in the city of Soledar. As he tried to make his way back to friendly lines, McQuade said,Cote mistakenly approached a Russian checkpoint and had to floor his vehicle in reverse to get away while taking fire.

Through it all, Cote kept in touch with his mother during his time in Ukraine. She still has his text messages on Signal and videos that he sent her. He also used FaceTime to keep in contact with her and his children.

Not long before he was killed, Cote broke his leg or ankle, McQuade said. He spent a week recuperating in Kyiv, but he felt the need to rejoin the unit, so he headed back to the front. While he was spending the night in a home while enroute to Kharkiv, a Russian drone destroyed the building.

“Based on our conversations prior to this happening, and the Twitter posts I have seen online, he was targeted,” McQuade said. “He was doing good for Ukraine.”

About 30 U.S. military veterans have died in Ukraine since Russia invaded the country in February 2022. Like Cote, most of those veterans served with the Army, including Derek Thien Tran, a former fire support specialist who was killed on July 28 during combat operations; Jericho Skye Magallon, who was killed on Sept. 4 or 5 by a Russian drone strike near Bakhmut; and Dalton Medlin, who died on Sept. 27 from wounds he sustained while leading a reconnaissance mission of a Russian position.

The State Department does not provide an official estimate of how many Americans have died in Ukraine since the latest Russian invasion began nearly two years ago.

One of Cote’s friends described him as an exceptional person who cared more about others than himself.

“He had three kids, and he cared about his kids a lot,” said Cote’s friend, who asked not to be identified in this story. “The reason why he went there is to create a better future for his children.”

Cote loved Ukraine and its people. and he felt obligated to help them, his mother said.

“He signed the check for the US Army, but ended up paying it in Ukraine,” McQuade said. “He just turned 35 in July. I will miss him for the rest of my days.”

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