Andrew, a U.S. Army veteran who graduated from Ranger School, initially told his family that he was going to Poland to help train Ukrainian forces. But he decided to go to the front, where he was killed late last month, his mother Kelly said.

Task & Purpose is identifying this veteran and his mother by pseudonyms due to multiple cases of Russian harassment  directed at the families of Americans who are killed in Ukraine.

Kelly said that her son stayed with families around Ukraine before he was billeted in barracks, and those experiences may have prompted him to take an active role in fighting against the Russians.

“He would visit or discuss things with the people who were caring for him,” Kelly said. “He was shocked to hear the things the Russians were doing to the women and children of these towns and the brutality that existed. I think that’s what motivated him to serve for Ukraine.”

Andrew wanted to eventually become a Ukrainian citizen, but one day his unit left on a mission and only three people returned. His mother soon learned that Andrew did not.

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Now she wants people to know that her son is not the only American who went to Ukraine to make a difference.

“There are so many people around the world who are believing in this cause,” she said.

More than 50 Americans have died in Ukraine since Russia launched its latest invasion of the country in February 2022. More than 40 of those killed were U.S. military veterans.  Andrew is one of several Americans killed in Ukraine who remain on the battlefield because their remains have not been recovered.

Andrew served in the Army from June 2016 to May 2023 as an 11B infantryman, attending Ranger and Air Assault school. He deployed to Afghanistan from June 2018 to March 2019, Army spokesman Bryce Dubee told Task & Purpose.

Kelly’s father was a Marine sergeant major, and she told her children while growing up that if they didn’t want to attend college, they needed a backup plan, such as joining the military.

That’s exactly what Andrew did. When he was 17 – still a junior in high school – Andrew enlisted in the Army. He left for basic training the week he graduated from high school.

Andrew was first assigned to Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, and then he volunteered to join a unit that deployed to Afghanistan for nine months, his mother said.

“He did see combat,” Kelly said. “He did, unfortunately, have to kill people, and watched fellow teammates also die. And that took a significant toll on him.”

After returning from Afghanistan, Andrew attended Ranger School. Despite having to repeat parts of the intense training, he was ultimately able to earn his Ranger tab.

Andrew was next assigned to El Paso, Texas, and he considered trying to join special operations forces. Then the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan unfolded.

Thousands of Afghan refugees were sent to El Paso, and Andrew was revolted at how badly the Afghan men and boys treated women who had to flee their country without their husbands. Some of the Afghan refugees also swore at U.S. soldiers. It was too much for Andrew, who decided not to reenlist in the Army.

He took a break from life, visiting friends from the Army, before deciding he could make a positive change in his life by helping the Ukrainian military.

“From what I understand, he only signed up for six months, which makes me really believe that he was just first going to train people and see what it was like,” Kelly said.

Once in Europe, Andrew sent his mother text messages about the meeting Ukrainians who had to eat pigeons at the star of the war to survive; people whose homes had been destroyed; and women who were raped by the Russians.

“I think God understands I’m doing a good thing,” he texted. “That pays me enough. I’m not going to be rich, but I will be a way better human being than the richest person you know to exist. To me, that’s priceless.”

Kelly said she is still in shock after recently learning of her son’s death. What makes her grief worse is knowing it is unlikely that her son’s body will ever be recovered.

“When somebody dies in a car crash and illness, you have that closure of you have that closure of their remains,” Kelly said.  “I understood from the time that he went to Afghanistan and because of IEDs [improvised explosive devices] that they used – those detonating bombs – that there could be a chance that I would never get a body back.

She is also disgusted that the Russians and Ukrainians are not making more of an effort to recover the bodies of their troops.

“Where is the dignity in typical wars?” she said. “If the possibility arises, shouldn’t both sides be concerned with returning a person’s remains? I was hoping, since he was an American and he was a U.S. veteran, and he also had that Ranger status that his body could be leveraged and that way I could get it back. And now at this point, I’m pretty convinced it’s never going to happen.”

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