The remains of U.S. Marine veteran Grady Kurpasi, seen speaking to students in Swansboro, N.C., in 2019, will be returned Friday to the United States and his family. Kurpasi had been missing in Ukraine for more than a year. Photo courtesy of Lance Cpl. Aaron Douds/Marine Corps
May 17 (UPI) -- The remains of U.S. Marine veteran Grady Kurpasi, who volunteered to fight in Ukraine following Russia's invasion last year, will be returned Friday to the United States and his family.
Kurpasi's remains, which were located following a nine-month search by the global human rights advocacy group Weatherman Foundation, will arrive Friday on a Turkish Airlines Flight from Istanbul to New York's JFK International Airport.
A brief ceremony will be held at the airport to honor the fallen soldier before his remains are to be transferred to a private flight to Wilmington, N.C., to be reunited with his family.
"Our family is deeply grateful to the Weatherman Foundation for their tireless efforts to find our beloved Grady's remains and to bring him home to us," said Kurpasi's wife, Heeson Kim.
Kurpasi, 50, initially traveled to Ukraine to help evacuate citizens and train Ukrainian soldiers, but decided to join the Ukrainian Foreign Legion to help fight after witnessing atrocities outside of Kyiv.
Kurpasi, who served in the Iraq war and retired as a Marine captain before traveling to Ukraine in February of 2022, vanished more than a year ago. He was last seen on April 26, 2022, when he went to investigate the source of gunfire in southern Ukraine with a group of international volunteers. Kurpasi and the men radioed back to their team that they were under fire.
After missing for more than a year, Kurpasi was declared dead by the State Department last month.
Kurpasi was raised in New York City following his adoption from Korea and enlisted in the Marine Corps at the age of 29 following the attacks on 9/11.
During his three deployments to Iraq as an infantry assault man and scout sniper, he received a number of awards, including the Purple Heart Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. He was also a Tillman Scholar.
"There is an unspoken bond between those who serve in uniform -- if you give your life in combat, your fellow Americans will bear any burden to bring you home," Meaghan Mobbs, president of the Weatherman Foundation, said in a statement.
"Our team spent the last nine months quietly and diligently working to honor that commitment to Grady and his family. As a fellow Tillman scholar, veteran and American, I could not be prouder to see him returned home."