Bryan Young feared for his adopted homeland, his partner said. That’s why the U.S. Army veteran left the Republic of Georgia, where he settled and got married after an international cycling trip in 2017, and volunteered to fight the Russians.
“We had a very, very big fight because I didn’t want him to go,” said Mr. Young’s partner, Maria Lipka.
In March — not long after Russia invaded Ukraine — Mr. Young traveled to Istanbul, and then Ukraine, enlisting as a volunteer fighter. “He wanted to be useful and he wanted to use his knowledge because he’s former military,” Ms. Lipka said.
On Friday, the State Department confirmed the deaths of two Americans in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, adding to the death toll of volunteer fighters there.
Over the weekend, Ruslan Miroshnichenko, a Ukrainian commander, identified the Americans in a Facebook post. He said Mr. Young and Luke Lucyszyn were killed on July 18 alongside two other foreigners, Emile-Antoine Roy-Sirois of Canada and Edvard Selander Patrignani of Sweden.
Ms. Lipka, 43, described Mr. Young, 51, as an adventurous man who loved to travel. Originally from California, Mr. Young left the Army years ago because of injuries. He served as an infantryman from November 1990 to April 2003.
He left the United States in 2017 to embark on a cycling journey around the world, making stops in Iceland, the Balkans, Morocco and Turkey. “At some point, he had just felt that he would like to see more of his world,” Ms. Lipka, a pediatrician, said by phone on Monday.
On a stop in Georgia in 2019, Mr. Young and Ms. Lipka met through a cycling group. By December 2020, they were married.
He loved animals and volunteered in animal shelters throughout his time cycling overseas. Though he and Ms. Lipka had no children together, they raised two cats. He has two adult daughters from a previous marriage.
When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Mr. Young quickly considered volunteering. Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, and Mr. Young wondered if Georgia would be at risk again — though Ms. Lipka was skeptical.
In a post recognizing the foreign fighters who died, Mr. Miroshnichenko, the Ukrainian commander, said he was “honored” to have been their leader.
“I just want to say, they weren’t hiding, but they looked for every opportunity to be helpful, they all fully volunteered and did their combat duty on the front line till the end,” he wrote. “Calmly and with honor.”
Ms. Lipka said they had stayed in touch by phone, and she begged him to return home to Georgia.
But Mr. Young had made up his mind, even as conditions worsened in the East.
In one message to Ms. Lipka in June, Mr. Young said, “It has been a mess where I am, most of the foreign volunteers left. There are only a few of us left.”