After leaving his wife and home in Connecticut for sleepless nights and rocket attacks on Ukrainian front lines, American James Vasquez says he is grateful for the support he has received.
Vasquez, in a posted video on Twitter on Thursday, thanked for the prayers and generosity that he said allowed him to travel to Ukraine to fight alongside his army against the Russian invasion. The local entrepreneur and veteran is one of tens of thousands of foreigners who have volunteered for the Ukrainian International Territorial Defense Legion.
Since arriving in Ukraine last month, Vasquez has documented his activities on his Twitter account which has 275,000 followers. His tweets described negotiating his way across the Ukrainian border, shelling by Russian forces and other scenes from the front lines.
“I want to thank everyone and tell you how much I appreciate all of your help, generosity, wishes, prayers and donations,” Vasquez, who has a salt-and-pepper goatee, said in his video. Thursday. “It’s just super overwhelming, not just for me but for everyone I’m here with. So thank you. Thank you.”
In the video, Vasquez said he was packing up and remobilizing for the Eastern Front. He said he had a few days off where he could sleep in a bed and take a hot shower “with towels and shower gel and all that fun stuff.”
A US Army veteran, Vasquez he said opened his Twitter account, despite being unfamiliar with the platform, to document his journey after making the decision to fight in Ukraine after Russia launched its invasion on February 24.
Vasquez has since live-tweeted his experience, responding to false information about his death, showing a photo of a stray cat he befriended or exhibited guns and other military hardware that are part of his daily existence.
“It’s midnight here but I can’t sleep cause I can’t wait to get into some shit tomorrow,” he said in a March 17 tweet. “Every atrocity, every war crime, every innocent civilian murdered day by day motivates everyone here to fight.”
He also used the account to provide insight daily life behind the front lines including captured armored vehicles and Molotov cocktail suppliesas well as his finding on the large number of elderly people unable to flee the conflict and amputated dogs.
But his trip to Ukraine comes at a cost. Tina Vasquez, his wife, told Time that she relied on family, friends and strangers to help her. She said people had donated money to pay for travel costs while offering help during the stressful time.
“It’s in his DNA. He’s a soldier,” said Tina Vasquez Time, describing her husband of 47 years. “He didn’t want to watch it at home. He asked me if he could go and I said ‘yes’.”
She said her husband, a former US Army staff sergeant, planned to spend at least two months in Ukraine despite having no connection to the country but a strong belief in its sovereignty.
Newsweek could not reach James Vasquez for comment.