Dane Partridge, a 34-year-old Latter-day Saint, U.S. Army veteran and father from Rexburg, Idaho, died this week from injuries sustained fighting on the front lines in Ukraine, his family confirmed.

Partridge had been fighting with the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine since April, one of many American citizens volunteering as Russia continues its invasion.

At least five Americans have died in the war, according to reports. In March, The Washington Post reported at least 4,000 Americans were interested in volunteering to fight in Ukraine.

Partridge was struck in the neck and brainstem by shrapnel on Oct. 3 after Russian forces ambushed his unit while they were clearing trenches in Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine.

Still under fire, Partridge’s colleagues carried him out on a blanket and laid him down in the back of a pickup with the other wounded soldiers, according to his family. The driver ran the truck into the ground on their way to the hospital, literally — only one wheel was intact when they arrived, the other tires shredded and hanging from the rim.

Dane Partridge of Rexburg, Idaho, poses for a picture while fighting with the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine. Partridge, from Rexburg, Idaho, died Oct. 11, 2022, while fighting in Ukraine. | Partridge family photo

On Oct. 11, Partridge succumbed to his injuries in Ukraine, leaving behind five children.

“We knew that his heart was happy helping over there. And that made us happy,” his sister, Jenny Corry, told the Deseret News on Friday. “Above all else, he said it was him serving his God.”

Born into a military family, Partridge grew up in Rexburg, off-roading in the summer and snowmobiling in the winter, Corry said. He enlisted in the U.S. Army after he graduated from high school, and in 2007 was deployed to Baghdad as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he was a turret gunner and drove armored vehicles.

He left the Army in 2012, and for the next 10 years found work as a long-haul trucker and tow truck driver.

On Feb. 24, Russia invaded Ukraine, and Partridge was glued to the television.

Partridge and his family have no ties to Russia or Ukraine. But like the roughly 20,000 other foreign fighters in Ukraine hailing from 52 different countries, according to the Harvard International Review, the Rexburg father was determined to help.

A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Corry says her brother was motivated by his faith.

“He wanted to serve the Lord. He wanted to serve his God. That was the number one person he wanted to follow. ... The more he prayed about it, the more sure he was,” Corry said.

Partridge wrote a will, bought a one-way ticket to Poland, and said goodbye to his family on April 27. The family would hear from him periodically over the coming months, Partridge sending the occasional text, or FaceTiming when he had a good connection.

He took particular interest in rescuing cats and dogs — his unit even adopted a kitten, nicknaming it “the war kitty.”

When he had time, he would attend Sunday services at the nearest church, and made an effort to reach out to and befriend Latter-day Saints in Ukraine.

In July, he stepped on a tripwire, triggering a grenade that left him with nine shrapnel wounds, according to his family. Three weeks later, he was discharged from the hospital, and back on the front lines.

“We were nervous, ... but we also knew that he thrived there,” his sister said.

In September, his family got another call — Partridge was going on a mission with a high mortality rate.

“He called to say his last goodbyes,” Corry said, “then he went dark and for a couple of days, and we were on edge waiting.”

Dane Partridge of Rexburg, Idaho, is shown being released from the hospital in July after he was wounded fighting with the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine. Partridge died Oct. 11, 2022, while fighting in Ukraine. | Partridge family photo

Partridge returned from the mission unscathed, Corry said. Exactly one month later, in Severodonetsk, his unit was ambushed by Russian tanks. Corry and her family learned of his passing from a Latter-day Saint he befriended in Ukraine.

His body is still in Kyiv, and the family hasn’t made any funeral arrangements yet. Their hope, Corry says, is to find some Ukrainians willing to sing during his memorial service.

“He was always good for a laugh, exchanging witty banter and wanting to cheer people up,” Corry said. “He ended his messages while he was over there with ‘I love you, I miss you, this is all for you.’ And my exchange in sharing his story would be to say ‘I love you, I miss you, this is all for you.’”