CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio (WJW) – The family of a U.S. Marine and Cleveland Heights native killed in Ukraine while fighting Russian troops, is sharing the story of their loved one’s remarkable bravery. 

The grandparents of Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Cooper Andrews, who was killed near Bakmut on April 19 during a Russian mortar attack, say their 26-year-old grandson volunteered to go to Ukraine in 2022 as a freedom fighter because he was moved by the plight of the Ukrainian people.

“He stood strong, he stood for his beliefs, he had faith. With Ukraine having been attacked by Russia and the people that were being injured and killed, you know, it was just so devastating and he wanted to help,” said his grandmother, Betsy Andrews.

“I can understand why Cooper would do that. I mean, he would recognize that was necessary,” Cooper’s grandfather, Joe Andrews, said.

Cooper told his grandparents how grateful the Ukrainians were for the support of volunteers like him from around the world.

“He said that they got down on their knees and thanked these people who came from foreign countries to help them fight for their continued freedom, to be free of the attacks from Russia,” said Betsy Andrews.

It is the heartbreaking details about how Cooper was killed, while volunteering to go behind Russian lines to rescue injured Ukrainian soldiers and civilians, that serves as a source of pride for his grieving family.

His remains could not be immediately recovered because they were behind Russian lines.

“I mean, I don’t think most of us can even comprehend it, the bravery,” said Joe Andrews.

Cooper’s grandmother said his courageous actions reflected his upbringing and his training in the Marine Corps.

His grandparents say Cooper’s sense of justice and his commitment to causes were encouraged by his parents and he was deeply moved by the death of his father in 2017.

“Devastating, I mean, losing his father six years ago and now to lose Cooper, it’s just overwhelming,” said Betsy Andrews.

The footprints in the sand that Cooper left behind while serving his own country and then defending the people in Ukraine are providing solace for those who love him.

“I’m very proud of that. I’d rather have him, but I’m very proud of what he did,” his grandfather said.

“It’s overwhelming, the great pride that we felt in him and I guess I can’t think of all the words, but there was never a time that we weren’t proud of him,” his grandmother added.

Cooper told his grandparents that after serving in Ukraine, he was hoping to come back to the U.S. and prepare for a career in journalism. 

He is also survived by his mother, Willow Andrews, and his brother Cameron.