In a heartbreaking turn of events that’s all too familiar, we’ve got another story of courage and tragedy coming out of the war-torn landscapes of Ukraine. This time, it’s about Ethan Hertweck, a young, 21-year-old American ex-Marine from Springfield, Missouri. Ethan’s journey ended on December 8, 2023, in Ukraine, under circumstances that can only be described as heroic and devastating. My guess is that even though he died over a month ago, you are just now hearing about his sacrifice.

Ethan was not just any volunteer, although they are all extraordinary. After the Marine Corps and an honorable discharge due to a rare blood disorder, he found himself restless, unable to shake off the call to serve. When Russia launched its brutal invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, Ethan saw his chance to get back in the saddle. He packed his bags and headed straight into the heart of the conflict.

Now, here’s where the story takes a gut-wrenching turn. Back home in Missouri, Ethan’s family is caught up in the complex, emotionally draining process of bringing their son’s remains back to the U.S. It’s a path tread by too many families, each story as heartrending as the last.
Leslie Hertweck, Ethan’s mom, opened up to the press recently about the ordeal. It’s not just about waiting; it’s about navigating through a maze of foreign legal procedures, all while coping with the unbearable weight of loss. They’re working with the U.S. Embassy and the R.T. Weatherman Foundation, but as we’ve seen in other cases, this process is anything but quick.

Ethan’s story is one of those that hits you right in the gut. The young ex-Marine was there in Avdiivka, a hotspot in the Donetsk region, doing what he believed in – helping people. According to first-person accounts, during a fierce attack, Ethan went back to save a wounded soldier and got fatally injured himself. But even in those final moments, he kept helping others. If that’s not the definition of a hero, I don’t know what is.

Before Ukraine, Ethan had a brief stint in the Marine Corps, but his military career was cut short due to his rare medical condition. That didn’t stop him. He turned his sights to Ukraine, first helping displaced people and potential victims of human trafficking, then training as a combat medic. His parents, understandably worried, trusted in his skills and commitment.