2009 Tillman Scholar

Grady Kurpasi

Marine Corps
University of California - Los Angeles
B.A., Linguistics

Grady was born in Korea and was adopted and moved to the United States while he was an infant. On 9/11 Grady was living in his hometown of New York City. The attacks on the World Trade Center compelled him to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. He went from working as a computer programmer to being a Marine Infantry Assaultman at the age of 29.

Grady went on to attend UCLA to study linguistics where he graduated with high honors. Upon graduation from UCLA, Grady went through several levels of training in the Marine Corps, graduating high in all of his classes. While becoming a certified Officer in Charge, Grady was injured but persevered and gained the coveted title of Infantry Officer.

In 2012 Grady returned to the Fifth Marine Regiment and was assigned as Platoon Commander of 3rd Platoon Golf Company Second Battalion 4th Marines. Grady always led from the front and pushed his Marines to be physically, technically, and mentally tougher. He always put the men before himself, in his eyes he worked for his Marines not the other way around. He completed 2 tours with Golf Company on the 31st MEU, first as a platoon commander then as an Executive Officer.

After his tour, Grady was stationed in Korea for 3 years with his wife and daughter. During this time he explored his birth country with his wife and daughter, while also working as a liaison with the Korean Military. Upon completion of his tour in Korea he was assigned as 2nd Marine Regiments H&S Company commander. This is where he would finish his career. In September 2021 Capt. Kurpasi was officially retired after 20 years of dedicated service to this nation, all during the height of the Global War on Terror.

Grady traveled to the Ukraine in February 2022 to assist evacuations and train Ukrainian soldiers. He stayed to volunteer to fight in support of Ukraine after witnessing battles and other acts of war outside of Kyiv. He was last seen in April 2022 after investigating gunfire with a group of international volunteers, having radioed for help that he and another volunteer were under fire.

Missing for more than a year, Kurpasi was declared dead by the State Department in April 2023. The Weatherman Foundation, a private operating foundation founded by Bess Weatherman and Andrew Duncan, worked to locate Kurpasi’s remains and ensure their safe passage back to American soil, which they did in May 2023.

In addition to being a Tillman Scholar, Grady was awarded the Good Conduct Medal three times, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal three times, the Purple Heart Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. He is survived by his wife and daughter.