Marine veteran killed by Russian missile strike on restaurant in Ukraine

More than a dozen Americans have died in Ukraine since February 2022.
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Ian Tortorici
Marine veteran Ian Tortorici left a career in law enforcement to fight in Ukraine. He was killed on June 27, 2023 by a Russian missile strike on a crowded restaurant in the Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk. (Photo courtesy of Jon Frank)

The war in Ukraine has claimed the life of another U.S. military veteran. Ian Tortorici was killed in a recent Russian missile strike on a restaurant in Ukraine, his father Jon Frank told Task & Purpose.

“I was told he fought on every front for 15 months and was never injured with the exception of one concussion,” Frank said. “After Bakhmut there were only five of the 16 from his original team who did not leave, killed or wounded and he told me he would not leave until the war was over.”

In the last message that Frank received from his son, Tortorici wrote that he was on leave in Kramatorsk, Ukraine after his nine-man team had taken a trench from 20 Russians.

Tortorici also wrote that he expected to return to the front lines after a few days of rest, but on June 27 a Russian missile struck a crowded restaurant in the Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, killing Tortorici and 12 other people, including Ukrainian writer Victoria Amelina.

On Monday, Frank told Task & Purpose that his son is a Marine veteran who served under the name Ian Frank, explaining that “Tortorici” is Frank’s grandfather’s name, which his son added later.  

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Tortorici served as a data systems technician in the Marine Corps Reserve from 2009 until 2016, leaving the Corps as a corporal, according to his service record, which was provided to Task & Purpose. His military awards include  the Armed Forces Reserve Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

His record lists no deployments and his final duty assignment was with Marine Wing Support Squadron 473 at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California.

Ian Tortorici
Ian Tortorici served as a data systems technician in the Marine Corps Reserve from 2009 to 2015, leaving the Corps as a corporal. His father explained that he served in the Marines under the name “Ian Frank” and added Tortorici later. (Photo courtesy of Jon Frank)

At one point, Tortorici’s unit was activated for 10 months for an expected deployment to Bahrain, but his unit ended up staying in California, Frank said.

Tortorici also worked as an emergency medical technician and served in law enforcement for seven years, first as a ranger for the National Park then as a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer, before resigning to go to Ukraine, Frank said.

“He was not a Mercenary but a contracted member of the Ukrainian army with the International Legion and a U.S. Flag over his heart,” Frank wrote in a June 30 Facebook post. “He was a U.S. Marine, Park Service Ranger and ICE agent, a son, a brother and uncle and he gave up a lucrative and comfortable life to prevent WWIII.”

Frank also wrote on Facebook that Tortorici asked his father “not to make a fuss” if anything happened to him, but Frank still felt the need to pay tribute to his fallen son.

“He experienced a lifetime of death and horrors but chose to stay,” Frank wrote. “He loved his team, his girlfriend and Ukraine. He was the most selfless, bravest, kindest, unassuming and off-center person on the planet and hated for anyone to know it.”

More than a dozen Americans have died in Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of the country in February 2022. State Department officials have said they don’t have the exact number of American citizens who have been killed in Ukraine, in part because the U.S. government’s ability to verify the deaths of U.S. citizens in the country is limited.

Ian Tortorici,
Ian Tortorici, a Marine veteran, spent 15 months fighting in Ukraine. He was killed by a June 27, 2023 Russian missile strike on a crowded restaurant in the Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk. (Photo courtesy of Jon Frank.)

Tortorici is one of at least five Marine veterans killed in Ukraine, including former Sgt. Cooper “Harris” Andrews, retired Marine Capt. Grady Kurpasi, Pete Reed, and Willy Joseph Cancel.

Anthony Tortorici Frank also paid homage to his fallen brother on Facebook, who left his life behind to join Ukraine’s international legion.

“To this day, I still don’t fully understand why he felt the need to defend a country that wasn’t his home,” Anthony Tortorici Frank wrote. “All I know is he had a warrior’s spirit and, like all warriors, answered the call. We never know when our final hour is upon us. All we can do is live our lives on our terms, and my brother did just that. I am proud of you, Ian. I am happy for the life you lived. I will honor your memory and look after our family.”

UPDATE: 07/05/2023; this story was updated with information from Ian Tortorici’s service record.

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