News Region & Country Ukraine

Army veteran killed in Ukraine ‘was a true hero’

More than 20 U.S. military veterans have died in Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion.
Jeff Schogol Avatar
Derek Thien Tran
Former Army Spc. Derek Thien Tran died in Ukraine on July 14, 2023. He previously served as a U.S. Army13F Fire Support Specialist in the Army from July 2019 to December 2022. (Twitter screenshot)

U.S. Army veteran Derek Thien Tran was killed in July while conducting combat operations in Ukraine, according to a fellow U.S. military veteran.

Tran, 28, died on July 14, according to an obituary posted online. No information has been publicly released about the circumstances of Tran’s death, including where in Ukraine he died or whether he died in active combat 

A social media post by an American described how Tran had helped to successfully evacuate his wounded Ukrainian and American teammates just a week prior to Tran’s death.

“He was a true hero, such a great loss for his family, friends & [Ukraine],” the U.S. military veteran, who asked not to be identified, posted on X. “Rest easy & party on in Valhalla!”

Subscribe to Task & Purpose Today. Get the latest military news and culture in your inbox daily.

Tran served as a 13F Fire Support Specialist in the Army from July 2019 to December 2022, leaving the service at the rank of specialist, said Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Ruth Castro. His service record does not list any deployments.

A State Department spokesperson told Task & Purpose that the U.S. government is aware of reports of the death of an American citizen, though the department generally does not comment on or publicly identify American citizens who die in Ukraine.

“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,” the spokesperson said on Wednesday.

More than 20 U.S. military veterans have died in Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of the country in February 2022. Some went to fight while others traveled to Ukraine to provide humanitarian assistance to people in need of food, medical care, and shelter.

Most of the former U.S. service members who have died in Ukraine were Army veterans, including retired Green Beret Nicholas Maimer, who was providing humanitarian supplies to Ukrainians caught behind enemy lines last spring.

At least six fallen Americans were Marine Corps veterans. Retired Marine Capt. Grady Kurpasi, a former Scout Sniper, was killed while fighting in Ukraine in April 2022. More than a year later, his remains were returned to his family following an extensive recovery effort led by The Romulus T. Weatherman Foundation, a group of U.S. veterans, relief and humanitarian workers, and Ukrainians dedicated to delivering humanitarian and informal security assistance.

Jericho Skye Magallon, who served as an Army Military Police Officer, was later killed in September by a Russian drone strike while fighting in Ukraine. He had initially come home after serving with other foreign volunteers for 10 months in Ukraine, but decided to return to the country to help his brothers in arms, his family previously told Task & Purpose.

Ralph Magallon recalled what his son told him about why he felt the need to go to Ukraine: “He told me: ‘Dad, I have to go back. I can’t just watch these people being slaughtered.’” 

UPDATE: 10/11/2023; this story was updated to clarify that Derek Thien Tran was killed while conducting combat operations in Ukraine.

The latest on Task & Purpose