A former Green Beret who traveled to Ukraine to help train troops there has been killed in Bakhmut, his family has confirmed.
Nick Maimer, an Idaho man and 20-year military veteran, had been teaching English in Europe last year when Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Maimer’s uncle, Paul, identified the body seen in a video shared by Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin as that of his nephew.
“He persevered through a lot in his life. I had the utmost respect for him. A lot of people can learn from who he was and what he had accomplished in his short life. In 45 years, he lived a lot. He went over there as a humanitarian trying to do good for this world,” Paul Maimer told the Statesman.
While watching the horror unfold during the first days of the war, Maimer told the Idaho Statesman he’d felt a “calling” to help Ukrainians defend themselves against one of “the most clear-cut unjust invasions in recent history.”
He arrived in Ukraine in May 2022, and according to a video he posted on Facebook, he set out not to take part in combat, but to help train Ukrainian troops.
“I was in Poland when the war started, and because I am a retired soldier with a lot of experience- I did over 20 years-I knew I could come help them. But I didn’t necessarily want to fight, because I have a lot of specific training on training foreign militaries,” he said in a video shared on Facebook.
In a later update on his work training Ukrainian troops, he said he was looking forward to “lots of good things, lots of good work to be done, hopefully saving lives.”
He cautioned against American indifference to the war, noting that the bloodshed and violence is “not happening to someone else, it’s happening to our fellow humans.”
Maimer’s aunt, Cheri, told The Daily Beast the family supported his traveling to Ukraine to help them fend off Russian forces.
She said it had been difficult to keep in close touch with him given his location, but that the family had made a point to check his Facebook profile to make sure he was still active and alive.
Another aunt, Heidi Maimer, told The Daily Beast that he was a “great guy” who cared deeply about his community.
“I’m a teacher and the kids called him ‘snake guy’ because he had a lot of reptiles,” Heidi Maimer said. “He would bring his six foot snake boa constrictor to the classroom and he touched the lives of a lot of kids. He volunteered his time and always gave back to the community. He was a passionate human being and a great guy.”
Upon first arriving in Ukraine, Maimer had briefly linked up with the Mozart Group, a private military company made up of Western volunteers with military experience.
After that, Maimer began working with a nonprofit group offering help with evacuations and supplies for Ukraine, AFGFree. The founder of that group, Perry Blackburn, a retired lieutenant colonel, told the Statesman he’d reached out to Maimer to invite him to help with training for Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Force.
The two put together a training program they hoped Ukrainian commanders would soon begin implementing for new recruits, with Blackburn describing Maimer as the leader of that program last June.
Blackburn told the Statesman that Maimer had been providing “firsthand training” to Ukrainian troops when he “got caught behind enemy lines” in Bakhmut.
“It’s just a crazy, crazy time right now. And then having Nick die over there, it’s just brutal,” he said.