The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

American veteran killed in Ukraine wanted to ‘make a difference,’ father says

Andrew Peters, from Marshfield Wis., died on Feb. 16, his father told The Washington Post. (Courtesy of John Peters)
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On Tuesday, Andrew Peters’s parents received a call from his unit informing them that the 28-year-old U.S. Army veteran serving on the front lines with the International Legion of the Defense of Ukraine was missing in action.

“If someone is missing in action, that usually means one of two things: Either they are dead, or they were taken prisoner,” his father, John Peters, who also served in the U.S. Army, told The Washington Post in an interview.

That same day, the family in Marshfield, Wis., received a call from U.S. officials saying he had died. The veteran, who had also served as an infantryman in Afghanistan, was killed on Feb. 16 during combat. His body had been located. Citing security concerns, his unit and officials did not disclose the specific location where he died, John Peters told The Post. The unit told him that the family would eventually learn those details.

For now, the family is waiting for Andrew Peters’s remains and his personal belongings to be shipped home.

The news of his death arrived days before the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion, which ended decades of relative stability in Europe and launched a cascade of human suffering.

The United Nations says it has verified more than 8,000 civilian deaths since the invasion began and many more injuries, but the true toll could be much higher.

More than 100,000 Ukrainian troops have been killed or wounded in the war, according to the Associated Press, citing Western officials. Russian casualties are believed to be similar. Peters is at least the seventh American killed in Ukraine after Russia’s invasion began last year.

Long before life would take him to Ukraine to fight for another country, Andrew Peters was set on fighting for his own country.

Between his junior and senior year in high school, the youngest of two siblings enlisted in the U.S. Army, his father said. After his graduation, and four days before he turned 18, he left for training.

“He knew early on he wanted to serve his country,” John Peters said.

He went on to serve in Afghanistan in 2014. After an honorable discharge following a four-year enlistment, John Peters said his son moved back to his hometown in Marshfield, where he enjoyed hiking and playing pickup hockey in a league his father also belongs to.

Former Navy SEAL killed fighting in Ukraine

But when war erupted in Ukraine, Andrew Peters volunteered to join the fight against the Kremlin’s invasion. He arrived in Ukraine a couple of days after Thanksgiving with his own armor and military gear. He stayed in touch with his family until he stopped texting around Feb. 11.

While in Ukraine, Andrew Peters shared the horrors he had witnessed, his father said. “I remember him telling me, ‘Dad, you cannot believe the horror and the suffering of the Ukrainian people that is going on over here,’” his father recalled.

“He was a strong proponent of doing what was honorable, even at great personal cost,” John Peters added, “He wanted to go over there and make a difference.”

One year of Russia’s war in Ukraine

Portraits of Ukraine: Every Ukrainian’s life has changed since Russia launched its full-scale invasion one year ago — in ways both big and small. They have learned to survive and support each other under extreme circumstances, in bomb shelters and hospitals, destroyed apartment complexes and ruined marketplaces. Scroll through portraits of Ukrainians reflecting on a year of loss, resilience and fear.

Battle of attrition: Over the past year, the war has morphed from a multi-front invasion that included Kyiv in the north to a conflict of attrition largely concentrated along an expanse of territory in the east and south. Follow the 600-mile front line between Ukrainian and Russian forces and take a look at where the fighting has been concentrated.

A year of living apart: Russia’s invasion, coupled with Ukraine’s martial law preventing fighting-age men from leaving the country, has forced agonizing decisions for millions of Ukrainian families about how to balance safety, duty and love, with once-intertwined lives having become unrecognizable. Here’s what a train station full of goodbyes looked like last year.

Deepening global divides: President Biden has trumpeted the reinvigorated Western alliance forged during the war as a “global coalition,” but a closer look suggests the world is far from united on issues raised by the Ukraine war. Evidence abounds that the effort to isolate Putin has failed and that sanctions haven’t stopped Russia, thanks to its oil and gas exports.