A man fighting for Ukraine on the front line has lived a lie for most of his life by pretending to be a decorated US veteran, it has emerged.
James Vasquez, 48, became one of the most high-profile former soldiers to volunteer in the Ukrainian army.
He built up a large following after sharing dramatic images from the front lines and even caused an international stir after claiming to have access to US weapons.
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He repeatedly claimed to be a decorated US Army sergeant and said he had served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I was in Kuwait during Desert Storm, and I was in Iraq after 9/11 … This is a whole different animal,” Vasquez bragged in one online interview.
However, Vasquez has now admitted to the New York Times that he was in fact kicked out of the Army Reserves before ever went to war.
Military records show that he only achieved the rank of private first class, one of the lowest ranks, than a sergeant.
“I had to tell a million lies to get ahead,” Vasquez told the newspaper, while refusing to elaborate on why he’d been kicked out.
His confession was an even bigger shock to his now-ex-wife Tina Vasquez, who had spoken of her pride in her then husband and lauded his military expertise.
“He did the same thing after 9/11, rushed in to help. That’s just who he is — he’s my hero,” she was quoted as saying at the time.
On Monday, she said she was: "Just as shocked as anybody else” to find out about his deceit.
“I believed him. The war stories that had supposedly happened brought tears to his eyes. I felt terrible for what [he said] he had to go through and endure — and then come to find out it was all just a lie,” she said.
Vasquez has since been off the grid but is thought to have linked up with the far-right Da Vinci's Wolves battalion.
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