Ukrainian Army ‘kisses’ Norwalk’s James Vasquez as vet helps fight Russians, wife says

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NORWALK – Just two days after Russian troops invaded Ukraine, James Vasquez knew he wanted to join the fight.

Vasquez, a 47-year-old home improvement contractor and veteran, left his home in Norwalk this month to travel to war-torn Ukraine and fight alongside the country’s military.

“It’s in his DNA. He’s a soldier,” his wife, Tina Vasquez, said in an interview with Hearst Connecticut Media Group. “He didn’t want to watch it at home. He asked me if he could go and I said “yes”.

Vasquez announced his intention to go to Ukraine and fight at a rally outside Darien town hall earlier this month, according to a video posted to his now-viral Twitter account.

“I’m leaving on the 14th to join the foreign legion to fight,” Vasquez told the crowd. He said he would travel to Ukraine from Poland where he planned to cross the border and join the fight.

Tina Vasquez said her husband, a former US Army staff sergeant, plans to spend at least two months in the country. She noted that her husband had no ties to Ukraine, but was a firm believer in the country’s sovereignty.

“He’s going to fight the good fight and hopefully come home in one piece,” she said.

Last month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed for foreign fighters to help his beleaguered country repel the Russian invasion. The move almost immediately drew comparisons to the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, when foreign fighters flocked to Spain to fight for the Republican government against Francisco Franco.

Ukrainian officials say thousands of volunteers from the United States and other countries have learned about the fighting in defense of the nation. However, US officials discourage US citizens from traveling to Ukraine to fight.

James Vasquez documented his experience on Twitter, posting videos of the aftermath of battles and offering updates on clashes with Russian forces. On March 17, he wrote that he planned to go to the front the next day.

“It’s midnight here, but I can’t sleep because I can’t wait to get into the [expletive] tomorrow,” he wrote in the post. “Every atrocity, every war crime, every innocent civilian murdered day by day motivates everyone here to fight.”

In a video that has since garnered nearly 3 million views, Vasquez, dressed in combat gear and carrying an AK-style rifle, posed in front of what appeared to be the burning remains of an armored vehicle.

“It’s a Russian tank – a Russian tank that was shot down,” he said in the video.

In a pair of videos released Saturday, Vasquez showed off a .50 caliber machine gun and claimed to have stolen the tank-killing weapon with a pocket knife.

Tina Vasquez said her husband was fighting alongside Ukrainian soldiers and slowly learning their language. Despite the language barrier, she said he had already made lasting friendships with Ukrainian soldiers.

“They embrace him as an American soldier, and they’re so grateful to have him there,” she said.

Tina Vasquez said she tries to keep in touch with her husband as much as possible. But due to the conditions on the ground, she cannot talk to him every day.

As Tina Vasquez awaits news from her husband, she has relied on family members, friends and strangers for support. She said several people donated money to help with travel costs while others helped keep her in good spirits.

“It’s been very stressful,” she said. “But for the most part my attitude is quite optimistic and I look forward to his safe return.”

Writer Peter Yankowski contributed to this report.

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