Tyler native, U.S. Army combat veteran injured when fighting in Ukraine

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Published: May. 23, 2022 at 8:10 PM CDT|Updated: May. 23, 2022 at 10:56 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - A United States Army veteran from Tyler is recovering from battle wounds sustained while fighting alongside the Ukrainians against Russian forces.

U.S. Army veteran, purple heart recipient, and Tyler native Paul Gray has been fighting from the front lines in Ukraine where he was recently injured.

In 2020 he took an extended vacation to Eastern Europe. He loved it so much, he decided he would split his time between East Texas and Eastern Europe.

“I joined a foreign legion here, Georgia foreign legion, before the war started, I was helping train Ukrainians and then when the war started I went to work for the Ukrainian military kind of as a special forces unit that they have,” Paul Gray said.

Leading up to the invasion, Gray was training Ukrainian militias in basic infantry skills including forming squads and teams, doing hand signals, moving as a unit, basic rifle marksmanship, and radio communications.

On the day of the invasion, he got a call from his military unit at about 5:30 in the morning to join them to help defend Kyiv.

“I have a military background so I thought it was kind of like a moral obligation to help defend Kyiv and this country, and so I was happy to volunteer,” Gray said.

Gray says the Ukrainians face the reality of their country being torn apart by war. He says they are very patriotic people who fully support the military.

“It’s really inspiring to see so many people put their lives on hold and support. I’ve seen civilians donate everything they have to the military. Everyone’s trying to raise funds for their brothers, for their fathers fighting,” Gray said.

In mid-April, Gray was sent to a southern state in Ukraine where he was on the front lines fighting against Russian forces. While fighting, a Russian artillery round hit directly where he and his battle buddy, Manus McCaffrey, were.

“He sustained a lot of damage to his head and torso but he’s actually recovering really well,” Gray said. “He’s a great guy. I just wounded my leg. I took some shrapnel and damage from debris in that mortar attack - artillery attack.”

He’s been using this time to recover, let his leg heal, and help his unit get the supplies they need.

“Every day, I focus on what I need to do to get back to mission status and just help myself for when I go back to combat and be ready,” Gray said.

Gray anticipates being back in the fight by the end of the month. In the meantime, he is helping the National Museum of the History of Ukraine with an exhibition on foreign fighters in Ukraine.

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