Former Orcas resident Skyler Gregg dies in Ukraine

Skyler Gregg, 23, has died in combat, fighting for Ukraine.

Gregg grew up on Orcas, graduating with the 2018 high school class. He studied business administration at the University of Wroclaw in Poland, where many of his classmates were Ukrainian. Gregg began traveling regularly to Ukraine with friends and instantly felt at home.

“Everyone was so kind, it gave me the feeling that I used to have on Orcas — when you see people you don’t know but you’ve seen them around so much they are your kin. It’s a similar feeling,” Gregg told the Sounder in June from his Ukrainian hospital bed, where he was recovering from shrapnel injuries.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, he immediately took action.

“I was in eastern Washington when I heard the news,” Gregg said. “I was watching the American news and it was a little watered down. What I was seeing directly from my Ukrainian friends was really awful. It made me very upset and sad.”

He joined the International Legion to fight alongside other volunteers from around the globe and flew out of the United States at the end of March.

“I wanted to do something more than starting a fundraiser. I had a chance to do something about it myself,” Gregg said. “Russia is so blatantly flouting international law. It sets a really bad precedent for these authoritarian countries to just do what they want.”

At the end of May, a drone dropped explosives on Gregg and his comrades while they were eating dinner in an outdoor cooking area. Shrapnel ripped open his forearm and lodged in his leg. He was sent to a military hospital and then transferred to a facility farther from the front lines. He returned to the eastern side of Ukraine to reunite with his squad at the end of June. He died on Oct. 29.

“I am so grateful for the Orcas community who helped shape Skyler into the kind man he became,” said his mother Michele Gregg. “He absolutely loved growing up here and even as a child would voice his acknowledgment of how wonderful Orcas was. The community taught him kindness and love for humanity. When the need arose to give assistance to those in need, he didn’t have a second thought.”