Marine veteran Cooper “Harris” Andrews has been killed while fighting near Bakhmut, Ukraine, according to CNN, which spoke to Andrews’ mother and colleagues.
Willow Andrews told CNN that her son was killed on April 19 during a mortar attack along a road that the Ukrainian military uses to evacuate civilians from the besieged city of Bakhmut. His body has not yet been recovered due to the intense fighting in the area, she said.
A State Department spokesperson told Task & Purpose on Monday that an American citizen had died in Ukraine, but declined to say whether that person was Andrews.
“We are in touch with the family and providing all possible consular assistance,” the spokesperson said. “Out of respect for the family’s privacy during this difficult time, we have nothing further to add.”
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Andrews served in the Marine Corps from 2017 to 2022 as a ground electronics transmission systems maintainer, according to an official service record provided to Task & Purpose. He left the Marine Corps as a sergeant and his last duty assignment was with headquarters battalion, 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
His military awards include the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
Zach Deck, a former Marine sergeant, said he served with Andrews from 2018 until 2021 when both were in the same communications company under headquarters battalion, 2nd Marine Division.
Deck described Andrews as “a great marine” and a good man who kept people on their toes by constantly making them expect the unexpected,
“Cooper was always so goofy, he was also passionate and dedicated to his duties,” Deck told Task & Purpose. “He was super passionate about helping people he believed to be oppressed, or anyone for that matter. I miss him amongst the others. It’s safe to say he made my life better and I can’t wait to hopefully see him again one day.”
Independent journalist Jake Hanrahan tweeted news of Andrews’ death on Sunday, including a selfie that Andrews had sent a friend showing him holding a sledgehammer along with the message: “If I am martyred, remember me with my hammer.”
Andrews and two others were killed after being ambushed by Russian forces while they were defending Ukrainians being evacuated from Bakhmut, according to an Instagram post from the Popular Front, a grassroots media organization that Hanrahan runs.
“Cooper was a former US Marine and lifelong leftist organizer,” the Instagram post says. “He was a man of action. He didn’t scream into the void through his keyboard, he did real life.”
The Instagram post also said that Andrews served as a volunteer firefighter in Texas, Colorado, and Idaho when those states battled wildfires, and he also taught self-defense classes.
After initially joining Ukraine’s International Legion, Andrews joined another group, The Black Headquarter, which posted a separate tribute to him on Instagram calling him “a brave fighter and a reliable comrade.”
Bakhmut has been a grinding battle for months as the Ukrainians have fought stubbornly to hold onto the remnants of the city despite suffering heavy casualties. The Russian private military company Wagner has sent thousands of mercenaries recruited from prisons on suicidal attacks against Ukranian positions.
At least 12 Americans have died while fighting in Ukraine since 2022, including retired Marine Capt Grady Kurpasi, a former Scout Sniper; Daniel Swift, who served with the Navy SEALs before deserting in 2019; Andrew Peters, an Army veteran who deployed to Afghanistan in 2014; Pete Reed, a Marine veteran who was working with a team of medical professionals at the time of his death; Edward Wilton, an Army veteran who had been assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia; Dane Partridge, a former Army infantryman who had deployed to Iraq; Timothy Griffin, of New York State; Willy Joseph Cancel, a Marine veteran; Stephen Zabielski, of Florida; Bryan Young, an Army veteran; and Luke Lucyszyn, of South Carolina.
UPDATE: 05/01/2023; this story was update on May 1 with comments from Zach Deck.
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