Idaho man dies while volunteering in Ukraine

In the days after Dane Partridge was fatally injured while serving as a volunteer soldier in Ukraine, his sister found moments of solace in surprising places: first, a misplaced baseball cap discovered in her laundry room, then on a photo of a dented van. with only one tire intact.

The 34-year-old from Idaho died Tuesday from injuries sustained in a Russian attack in Lugansk.

A former US Army infantryman, Partridge felt “spiritually called” to volunteer with the Ukrainian military as it defended the country against invading Russian forces, his sister Jenny Corry said. He flew to Poland on a one-way ticket in April, his backpack stuffed with a body armor, helmet and other tactical gear.

“Went to the embassy, ​​taking a bus to the border,” Partridge wrote on her Facebook page on April 27. “From this point on, I probably won’t be giving away any more locations or actions for opsec reasons. I’ll let you all know I’m alive.

Partridge joined a military unit that included several volunteers from other countries, Corry said, with the men relying primarily on interpreters to communicate. Partridge and his fellow soldiers were in Severodonetsk, a town in the Luhansk region, when he was hit in the head by shrapnel during an attack by Russian combat vehicles, Corry said.

The unit had no stretchers and was still under attack, Corry said, but Partridge’s comrades carried him on a blanket and loaded him and other injured colleagues into a dingy-painted pickup truck. to bring them to safety.

“I have a picture of the truck,” Corry said in a phone interview Friday. The photo shows a dull painted pickup with shredded rubber hanging from the wheel hubs. All but one of the tires were destroyed in the dark rush to safety.

“As a family we really love this photo of the vehicle – it’s a testament to the bravery of how they tried to save their men and how they pushed this vehicle to its final stage just to surrender in the hospital,” she said. “That says a lot.”

Partridge leaves behind five young children. Corry deflected questions about children and some other parts of Partridge’s life, saying the family had jointly agreed to focus on his military service out of respect for those ‘still living and still affected by his personal life’ .

“We just want to focus on the good he’s done and don’t want to mention any personal things,” Corry said in a phone interview Friday.

Military service was a big part of Partridge’s life. He was the youngest of five children and his father was a member of the United States Air Force. As a child, Partridge liked to dress up in his dad’s oversized camouflage uniform and play “army guy” in the dirt, Corry said.

By the time he graduated from high school, Partridge had become a gregarious man with a booming voice and a pleasant personality, she said.

“When he arrived you knew he was there. He had a bigger personality,” she said. “If someone was sad, he was going to make sure to cheer them up. He loved spending quality time with people.

He enlisted in the US Army in 2006 and served in Baghdad in Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2007 to 2009 before leaving the military in 2012.

He didn’t talk much about his experiences in Iraq, but she knew some of them had weighed heavily on him throughout his life.

“He was a Humvee driver, and when he was practicing they told him that as a driver if he tried to save himself his men would probably be killed, but if he saved his men he would be most likely killed,” Corry said. brother told him. “It was something that was close to his heart.”

Yet this was the battleground where Partridge thrived. Corry believed that the adrenaline, sense of purpose and increased sense of service were what appealed to her.

“It was almost like he could tell he had a bigger purpose to fulfill,” she said. “Sometimes it was more difficult for him to integrate into the civilian world.”

When Russia invaded Ukraine, Partridge felt the need to help the Ukrainians. He was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and believed he was spiritually called to join the fight, she said.

“He believed in it with every fiber of his being and he wanted to honor his God,” she said.

He stayed with Corry for a while before making the trip to Ukraine. After she left, she discovered that her camouflaged baseball cap had been left in her laundry room. It was strange, she said, because he was very neat and organized, and he never left anything lying around.

“I just put it aside, and it stayed there for a while,” she said, pausing for a shaky breath. “And the day I decided to pick him up and wear him because I wanted to feel close to him is the day he died.”

Partridge’s family knew he might not be coming home. A few encouraged him to think a little longer about his decision, but Partridge intended to serve, she said.

“We are sad, but due to the circumstances, we already thought that he could die. It wasn’t like we were caught off guard,” Corry said. “In a way, it was something we had to figure out when he went there.”

Partridge was in a coma and on life support for eight days before he died. Family members had a chance to say goodbye, from a long distance, before he passed away, she said.

The family is raising money to try to bring Partridge’s remains home for burial in Blackfoot, Idaho. They also hope to raise money to replace the truck used by her unit to get Partridge to the hospital and buy other vital supplies for her unit, she said.

“We just want to do something to pay back the men,” Corry said.

At least four other US citizens were killed while fighting in Ukraine, according to reports from their families and the US State Department. The Ukrainian government has recruited people with military experience to join the International Legion for the Territorial Defense of Ukraine.

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Christi C. Elwood