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CoastLine: How retired Marine Grady Kurpasi landed in a Ukraine war zone and the long journey home

Retired Marine Captain Grady Kurpasi

Kevin Maurer, an award-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author has written extensively about and inside war zones. When he heard of the mysterious disappearance of retired Marine and Wilmington resident Grady Kurpasi during a Russian ambush in Ukraine, he started investigating.  That led to an article about the extraordinary life and death of Grady Kurpasi in Rolling Stone Magazine. 
Former Marine and close friend Don Turner also joins us to shed light on Grady's disappearance and the efforts to bring him home.

Grady Kurpasi went to Ukraine to fight. Then he disappeared. That’s the headline of a June 2023 Rolling Stone article by Kevin Maurer, who tells the story of a retired Marine Captain with impressive military skill that propelled him through a twenty-year career.

Kurpasi retired from the Marines in 2021. When Russia invaded Ukraine the following year, Kurpasi traveled to Poland and hitched a ride across the border to Kyiv. Once inside Ukraine, he volunteered for the Ukrainian International Legion.

According to Kevin Maurer’s Rolling Stone piece, Grady Kurpasi’s father believed he had gone to Europe for a vacation. His wife, Heeson, knew he was in a war zone but thought he was helping Ukrainian forces in an advisory capacity.

What Grady Kurpasi had not told his family: he went there to fight.

Don Turner met Grady Kurpasi in the Second Battalion, Fifth Marines. The two crossed paths again w in Second Battalion, Fourth Marines where Don Turner served as platoon sergeant for lieutenant Grady Kurpasi. Now retired, former Marine First Sergeant Don Turner lives in Pennsylvania with his family.

Kevin Maurer is the author of nine books, including No Easy Day,The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama bin Laden. His 2022 book, Damn Lucky, tells the story of a World War II bomber pilot who survived twenty-five missions. A three-time New York Times best-selling co-author, Kevin Maurer is also an award-winning journalist and has contributed to Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, GQ, and The Washington Post – among many other publications.

Links & Resources:

Grady Kurpasi Went to Ukraine to Fight. Then He Disappeared. Rolling Stone Magazine, June 2023


Body of Marine vet who went missing in Ukraine in 2022 returns home,Marine Corps Times

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 4 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.