One of two Americans who recently died in Ukraine was called to volunteer by his heritage, a close friend says.
A Ukrainian commander over the weekend identified two Americans who were recently killed in the nation’s eastern Donbas region.
Ruslan Miroshnichenko, the Ukrainian commander, identified the Americans in a Facebook post as Luke Lucyszyn and Bryan Young, and said they were killed on July 18 alongside two other foreigners: Emile-Antoine Roy-Sirois of Canada and Edvard Selander Patrignani of Sweden.
The State Department announced the deaths of two Americans on Friday but provided no further information about their identities or the circumstances of their deaths, citing respect for their families.
The Donbas region is the front line of the fighting in eastern Ukraine, where Russia concentrated its forces after failing to take Kyiv in the spring, though Moscow has in recent days suggested it may have plans to broaden its territorial ambitions into the south.
Mr. Young’s family did not immediately respond to messages and calls on Sunday.
A longtime friend of Mr. Lucyszyn’s, Corey Mesimer, 29, of Myrtle Beach, S.C., confirmed on Sunday that his friend’s family had been informed that Mr. Lucyszyn had been killed in battle.
Mr. Lucyszyn, 31, felt a responsibility to travel and fight in Ukraine because his grandmother was born there, and he felt close to his heritage, said Mr. Mesimer.
“That was something that he needed to do; he felt very strongly about it,” Mr. Mesimer said by phone on Sunday. “And even talking to him while he was over there, he felt like it was something that he needed to do for the country of Ukraine.”
Mr. Mesimer said that Mr. Lycyszyn, whom he described as being the “life of the party,” had been living in Myrtle Beach for the past two years and that the two had played on the same paintball team there, the Carolina Rage.
But he added that Mr. Lucyszyn had volunteered with no prior military experience, which had made some friends feel concerned. After Mr. Lucyszyn arrived in Ukraine in April, he would message Mr. Mesimer on WhatsApp to check in. Mr. Lucyszyn would often talk about how they lacked supplies and were being hit by heavy artillery, Mr. Mesimer said.
In their last WhatsApp messages from July 8, Mr. Lucyszyn told Mr. Mesimer about where the other foreign soldiers were from.
“Geez they coming from all over, huh?” Mr. Mesimer replied, and then asked: “How are you doing mentally?”
“I’ll be alright,” Mr. Lucyszyn wrote back.
“Just glad you are okay homie,” Mr. Mesimer responded. Then he sent what would be his final message to Mr. Lucyszyn: “Stay safe.”
Victoria Kim contributed reporting.