Former Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger advocated for Vasquez, urging Twitter to verify his account, and posed in pictures with him.
Only the story of Vasquez joining the Ukrainian Army turned out to be fake. "Kinzinger’s favorite Ukraine hero just deleted his account after it came out he is a fraud," Jack Posobiec said.
Malcolm Nance, also a supporter of Vasquez, responded to the allegations against Vasquez, as revealed by a current member of the Ukrainian armed forces, saying that he and others had advised Vasquez to "get off Twitter, get his life in order & come back to support [Ukraine] in a legal construct. He took that advice.
"James was NOT fake," Nance continued, "he was troubled. He did a lot for Ukraine but has challenges to face. Respect what he did do."
Kinzinger said a year ago regarding Vasquez "he's legit and too many folks are tying to create fake acts with him. I have a bill in congress to deal with this... Since this was happening to me for so long."
Vasquez works with Ripley's Heroes, which claims to "provide critically needed non-lethal and humanitarian resources to qualified and experienced heroes who have interrupted their own lives, and put themselves in harm’s way, to help save others."
Ripley's Heroes is not a not-for-profit, though they are collecting donations. Instead, they have applied for 501(c)3 status with the IRS, but that application has not yet been approved, meaning that donations made are not currently tax-deductible.
He is listed on Ripley's Heroes under the "Heroes" section.
James Vasquez as listed on the Ripley's Heroes site.
Adam Kinzinger posed with Vasquez, among others.
Vasquez claimed that he had "decided to pack up and make his way to Ukraine to fight as a volunteer soldier within the Ukrainian Military" after the Russian invasion fo that nation in February 2022.
A report from Ripley's Heroes said that "After spending months fighting alongside the Ukrainians and documenting the war through his verified @JMVasquez1974 Twitter account, James' impact was more profound than he realized. Amassing more than 400,000 Twitter followers, James was not only fighting on the front lines, but he was also reporting the war through an unfiltered lens."
After coming back to the US, Vasquez held fundraisers for Ripley's Heroes. He also engaged in a Sights of Freedom North American Tour in October 2022.
His LinkedIn shows that he is Chief Strategy Officer for Ripley's Heroes, and a soldier for the Ukrainian Army.
In a tweet from a soldier in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Sarah Ashton-Cirillo posted that Vasquez was guilty of "stolen valor," the practice of claiming military valor for one's self despite not having served.
She wrote that while she "won't release private texts," Vasquez had "confirmed to [her] in writing that he does not and has not had a contract with the Armed Forces of Ukraine."
Prior to that, she wrote: "As a soldier in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, who has to live by the rules of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, who has fought and fights at the front for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, I'm done w/ lies. James Vasquez is not and has not been in ZSU. @jmvasquez1974 please get help."
In a thread, she detailed the controversy.
"He will not be able to show enlistment papers with the ZSU. It is a rigorous process that requires weeks, if not months to complete. Invitation letter, Background checks, physical and intellectual tests, and a contract for either three years or until the end of mobilization.
"To be in ZSU means dedicating your life to ZSU. Not coming and going. Was James at the front? Seems so. Was James in the military? No. It is very specific. There are no special contracts with ZSU units, only Legion Units. I can't speak for Legion but James was not in Legion.
"For the sake of avoiding controversy I stayed out of it while other soldiers, real soldiers, called him out. I met James three times while I was in ZSU, all three times he was a civilian. It was shocking to see him say he was going on a mission to Soledar after we already left.
"But more shocking was the fact that James couldn't legally go on mission since he wasn't in the ZSU. Neither units, not companies, nor battalions can sign a soldier directly to a ZSU contract. It goes through a record/recruiting center and then to Brigade level."
A Canadian woman who is volunteering in Ukraine spoke about Vasquez and stolen valor as well. And in this case, it was personal. She said that Vasquez had lied, "scamming and misusing people['s] donations, lying about where you are on the frontline, endangering other soldiers by releasing photos and videos that can be geolocated or doxxing them."
She said that the was part of a group that raised money to buy a vehicle, and that she may suffer financial penalties for that due to their lies. "I thought they were telling the truth," she said.
In her post, she shared a receipt that she claimed was "photo of the hotel receipt where he stayed in Lviv at the nicest hotel while his 'best friend' was fighting for his country and ultimately lost his life."
She wrote that Vasquez was partying in a hotel and gambling while his friend was on the frontlines. "He uses a heroes death for sympathy, and to me, that's worse than all of it. Now he's going on 'vacation,' so I expect we won't be seeing him for some time. REAL soldiers don't leave the front. Real soldiers stay with their men," she said.
In the March 2022 story, Newsweek quoted James Vasquez, saying "Alright. So far, we took out seven Russian tanks, after a long fire fight we took control of the area."
This was based on Vasquez's Twitter account, which has now been deleted.
"Right now we're going to just kind of sweep around and see what we got left. Some stragglers, take them out, call it a day, it's been a long day. It's been a long day baby," he wrote, per Newsweek.
They cited his feed, claiming that "Vasquez left his home in Connecticut, arrived in Poland on March 15, and entered into Ukraine the following day to help Ukrainian forces fight off Russian troops in Moscow's full-scale invasion."
The Guardian, Newsweek said, reported that Vasquez "was sent to the frontlines from Lviv" on March 18, 2022. The Guardian had also based their report on Vasquez's Twitter feed.
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