Picture: Irish former US marine Graham Dale who was last fighting in Ukraine was slain in Avdiivka in Donetsk (Credit: Rory Dale/Facebook)
By Jeff Farrell
December 16, 2023
An Irish soldier slain in a drone attack in Ukraine was hailed a hero by his commander for charging at Russian troops.
Dubliner Graham Dale, 45, defied his unit’s advice to stay put in a bunker and instead emerged to gun down up to 18 enemy infantry.
The courageous move in the embattled area of Avdiivka in Donetsk meant Kyiv could hold its frontline rather than retreat.
59th brigade company commander Ryan O’Leary monitored Dale’s brave act of heroism from a drone.
It emerged that Dale, from Raheny, North Dublin, was killed in Ukraine on December 8.
The hero, who previously fought as a US marine in Iraq, had travelled to Ukraine in May 2022.
Dale, who was a gunner in Ukraine, is the third Irishman slain in the war while fighting for Kyiv since Russia invaded in February 2022.
His death comes after fellow brave Irish soldiers Finbar Cafferkey and Rory Mason have also fallen in battle.
Picture: Ryan O'Leary, commander of the Chosen Company unit attached to the 59th brigade (Credit: pic courtesy of O'Leary)
And O’Leary yesterday revealed that several soldiers in his company are fighters from across the island of Ireland.
The Irish-American commands the 'Chosen Company' of some 100 foreign fighters attached to the 59th brigade.
O’Leary told how Dale died in an area where his unit along with Ukrainian fighters were defending an area of 100 square metres in Avdiivka city which now lies in ruins.
O’Leary, 37, from Iowa, monitored the courageous Dubliner from a drone as he commanded his unit to fight off a Russian infantry assault attempting to pierce Ukraine's frontline.
He said: “We told him just to hang and wait [for support], but him and the Ukrainians just said ‘f**k it’, I guess, and pushed forward. So they actually ended up stopping the Russian assaults, and preventing the forward position from getting overrun.
Listen above: 'He was killed while holding the Ukrainain frontline': Hear Chosen Company commander Ryan O'Leary tell how Irish former US Marine Graham Dale was slain in Ukraine
“The friendly Ukrainian forces that were in that position, stuck inside of a bunker, weren't able to defend themselves. And basically, what Graham did with the Ukrainians, they went out, they killed all the Russians.
“There was a bunch of Russians. It wasn’t like six guys, it was like 18.”
O’Leary yesterday praised Dale for his instinctive reaction to put other men’s lives above his own to hold back the enemy.
He said: “He left a fortified position to go fight, prevent the guys in front of him from getting killed.
“I mean, he did what he thought was right. He prevented the Ukrainians in the position in front of them from dying. So he saved the guys.”
Dale was a former member of the Forsa Cosanta Aitiuil in the Republic of Ireland and was also a volunteer firefighter in the US, after emigrating there from Dublin 23 years ago.
He settled in Austin, Texas and joined the United States Marine Corps immediately after the terrorist attacks in the US on September 11, 2001.
The Dubliner went on to serve for seven years, including in Iraq.
Dale detailed his time in the US Marine Corps in the book The Green Marine: an Irishman’s War in Iraq.
A version of this story was first published in the Irish Mirror on December 16.