Editor’s note: This story was first published in the New York Post.
One of two Americans killed in a Russian tank ambush in Ukraine “didn’t go there to be a hero,” according to his parents — who repeatedly begged him to come home from the war zone.
Medic Luke Lucyszyn, a dad of two dubbed “Luke Skywalker” by the Ukrainians he was helping, was injured by Russian shelling on Monday last week, his commander, Ruslan Miroshnichenko, confirmed online.
When others tried to rescue him, they were ambushed by a Russian tank — killing Lucyszyn along with at least three other foreign fighters, including 51-year-old American veteran Bryan Young, the commander said.
Lucyszyn, 31, felt compelled to help because his father, George Lucyszyn, is a Ukrainian now living in North Carolina, the dad told NBC News.
But “he didn’t go there to be a hero. He was there because he wanted to help people,” his mother, Kathryn Lucyszyn, told the station, insisting they “tried to dissuade him” from going.
“Every time I talked to him, I said, ‘Why you just come home?’” his dad recalled.
Fighting back tears, the medic’s grieving mom recalled how “just a week before he was killed, he kept sending us notes saying, ‘Mom, we don’t have the right equipment.’”
He even asked for her to “send me a tactical vest,” recalled the mom, who said they were awakened last Tuesday at 4 a.m. by officials from the US State Department with news of their crushing loss.
Young’s wife confirmed to CBS News that the Californian was the other American confirmed dead in fighting. They were killed alongside a Canadian and a Swedish fighter who were also ambushed while trying to rescue Lucyszyn in the Donbas region.
In a series of tributes online, Miroshnichenko said he had been “honored to be their commander. It hurts so much to lose these boys.”
He told CBS News that Lucyszyn — and all those who served alongside him — had been deserving of his “Star Wars” nickname.
“There is a good side and evil side — they fight for good,” he told the outlet.
He recalled once asking Young why he had put his life on the line for another nation.
“He replied, ‘Sir, if we Americans don’t help you win this war, the next step of Russia will be knocking on our doors,’” he recalled of the California veteran’s response.
At least two other American volunteer fighters have been killed in Ukraine and two others have been captured by Russian forces.
Stephen Zabielski, 52, was killed in May in the village of Dorozhnyanka, Zaporizhzhia Oblast, after stepping on a landmine. Willy Joseph Cancel Jr., a 22-year-old Marine veteran, was killed in Ukraine in April, according to his mother.
Alexander Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27 — both U.S. military veterans from Alabama — are believed to have been captured near Kharkiv by pro-Russian rebels and faced threats of the death penalty.