U.S. Military Veterans Heading to Ukraine to Join Fight Against Russia

by Michael Freeman

We’ve heard stories lately about Ukraine’s patriotism amid the conflict with Russia, but the sentiments seem to extend outside the country. Here in the United States, military veterans are heading there to join the fight against Russia.

What to Know

  • Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky asked volunteers from other countries to aid them.
  • United States veterans are gathering and answering the call.
  • Volunteers for Ukraine helps interested veterans assist overseas.
  • The Ukrainian Government and U.S. news outlets also provide outlets for aiding the country.

Earlier this week, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, issued an invitation for people from other countries to join their fight against Russia. Announcing he was creating an “international legion,” people from countries around the globe are answering the call. The New York Times reports small groups of military veterans across the U.S. are gathering and preparing to join the fight overseas.

David Ribardo spoke to the New York Times about the movement and why many feel so inspired to help. “It’s a conflict that has a clear good and bad side, and maybe that stands apart from other recent conflicts,” he explained. “A lot of us are watching what is happening and just want to grab a rifle and go over there.”

Veterans Groups and News Outlets are Telling People how to Help Ukraine

After the invasion, Ribardo noticed on social media many veterans were eager to assist. This spurred him to act as a sort of mediator for a group called Volunteers for Ukraine. The group connects veterans and other volunteers with useful skills to donors who buy them gear and airline tickets.

Moreover, the enthusiasm “was very quickly overwhelming, almost too many people wanted to help,” Ribardo said. In one week alone he said he had to discern who truly had the skills they needed. He described many applicants as “combat tourists, who don’t have the correct experience and would not be an asset.”

On top of sifting through so many interested applicants, Ribardo notes other duties include combing out extremists and fundraising. For instance, sites like GoFundMe explicitly state you cannot collect money for armed conflict. To avoid potential legal ramifications and getting anyone in trouble, the group is careful to avoid specifically directing anyone to involve themselves in the fighting. Instead, Ricardo connects people he vetted with those who want to donate plane tickets for nonlethal supplies. He describes his role as being “a Tinder for veterans and donors.”

Additionally, the Ukrainian government told interested volunteers to contact its consulates. Many veterans opted to go with that route, only to be met with long waiting times. They suspect the consulates’ staff are overwhelmed.

Overall, Ribardo is far from the only one helping enthusiasts fight for Ukraine. If you are interested, go here to see how you can donate to help Ukraine’s efforts.