Edmonton paramedic killed in Ukraine

The family of an Edmonton man says he died while serving as a medic in Ukraine. Joshua Mayers is being remembered as someone who dedicated his life to helping people from a young age.

An Alberta paramedic was killed in the line of duty in Ukraine earlier this month.

According to an obituary Joshua Mark Mayers, 34, left Canada in September to serve as a medic in the ongoing war in Ukraine. He was killed in action on November 10th.

“He was his own person. He never bragged about anything he ever did,” his mother, Janet Penner Epp, said in a phone interview.

“A lot of his heroic stories I heard from other people that were in his life.”

The family was told Mayers had been sent out with a group of soldiers to protect a tree line two weeks ago near the eastern city of Bakhmut.

Six military members, including Mayers, headed out into a drizzly and dark night when it is believed a drone discovered the crew, said Penner Epp.

The Ukrainian Embassy in Ottawa said Mayers was reported missing.

“On Nov. 10, 2023, Canadian citizen Joshua Mark Mayers, who served in the military unit of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, was reported missing in action in the vicinity of Klishchiivka, Donetsk region,” the embassy said in an email.

It added that it is in contact with his family and will continue to provide all available information.

Global Affairs Canada said it’s aware of an incident involving a Canadian in Ukraine, and officials are working with local authorities and providing consular assistance. The department said it knows of nine Canadians who have been killed in Ukraine since the Russian invasion.

The family was notified of Mayers’ death on Nov. 12 in what Penner Epp calls a “blessing of an accident.”

She said one of her son’s co-workers in Edmonton was in a group chat with his military colleagues in Ukraine, and some said Mayers had died in a drone strike.

“That is the only way we know that he has passed away. Otherwise, all we would know right now is he’s missing in action,” said Penner Epp.

“I’m so thankful that we know the truth.”

Mayers married his wife, Cathryn, last year. He loved camping, hiking, and playing board games with his wife, friends, and two younger siblings, said Penner Epp.

He was a great brother and friend who spent his life wanting to help others, said his brother Matt Mayers.

“I think that was part of his motivation for going.”

He said the two brothers exchanged emails, but Joshua Mayers shielded his younger brother from the brutalities of the war.

Matt Mayers took to Facebook, sharing memories of his brother. In the post, he stated that he “couldn’t come up with the words to express how I feel about my brother right now.”

Saying, his brother doesn’t look like a typical hero, but he was always there when needed.

Photo of Joshua Mark Mayers. (Photo Credit: Connelly-McKinley Funeral Homes)

“I also can’t think of anyone who undersells their skills as much as Josh does. Paramedics like Josh are heroes, and I can guarantee that among paramedics, Josh is one of the best. But, if you ask him about his job he always just says, ‘all I do is prolong the inevitable,'” read the Facebook post.

Matt Mayers said he later heard from those who knew his brother in Ukraine, who said the paramedic had been going through a range of emotions.

“He was scared. The last few weeks, the place that he was at was being shelled a lot. He was excited for the adventure but also nervous.”

Irvin Mayers says his son was a caring person and wanted to make a difference in the world.

In the obituary, Mayers’ family said he was always helping people throughout his life, starting as a lifeguard before becoming a Primary Care Paramedic (PCP) and later an Advanced Care Paramedic (ACP).

“After working for Alberta Health Services for nearly ten years, Josh felt he was no longer doing enough to help people in the way that he wanted to and was inspired by the ongoing war in Ukraine,” read Mayers’ obituary.

“He felt this would bring a higher purpose to his life and provide him with a chance to make a significant and meaningful difference in the world. With love from his wife, family, and friends, Josh left for Ukraine in September 2023.”

Global Affairs Canada says Canadian officials continue to monitor the situation in Ukraine closely, are engaging with local authorities, and are providing consular assistance.

The provincial health agency offered its condolences.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our colleague. We have offered support and resources to those at Alberta Health Services who are impacted by this loss,” it said in an email.

Mayers felt compelled to join the battle in Ukraine after feeling he wasn’t doing enough to help people, his family said.

In the summer, he told his parents of his plans.

“My stomach did a somersault, but I knew by the time he told me that he had made up his mind,” said his mother.

“So I told him I would always love him and I would always support him.”

The family is unsure if or when they will be able to bring Mayers’ body back to Canada, but are planning a celebration of life next week in Edmonton.

“The fighting is advanced and the Russian front has moved past where he was. So, there’s no opportunity for the Ukrainian military to recover him.”

An online fundraiser has been started to help cover immediate expenses for Mayers’ wife.

The family is planning a celebration of life in Edmonton for next week.

– With files from the Canadian Press

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