Utah Marine Veteran helping refugees get out of Ukraine

Mar 11, 2022, 5:29 PM | Updated: Jun 19, 2022, 9:29 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Several days ago, a marine veteran from Kaysville packed up critical supplies and headed to Ukraine on a humanitarian mission. He’s now working with a friend who was living in Ukraine to help refugees escape. They’re providing supplies and comfort, while staying out of the way of the war.

“Our main mission and my main mission is humanitarian,” said Quan Nguyen. “I’m not going to the front lines, so I’m not focused on that. I’m keeping a very close eye on that because that’s my background and that does help.”

Nguyen served in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and has skills to help out. But, as he and a fellow marine veteran aid refugees, they’re on alert for the approaching war.

Quan Nguyen, a marine veteran from Utah, is now in Ukraine helping refugees escape and providing humanitarian aid. (Used by permission, Quan Nguyen)

“They’re strong. They love their country,” Nguyen said when asked about the Ukrainian people.

After only one day in Ukraine, he can tell Ukrainians are resilient and ready to keep fighting for their country.

He said most refugees left loved ones behind: the elderly and those who can fight.

“It’s just heartbreaking thinking about it,” he said.

Nguyen spoke on a video call from the quiet streets of Lviv, where many Ukrainians pass before going to the Polish border. Many people are moving through the city, he said. But right now, it is not under siege.

Nguyen was born in Vietnam and lived in refugee camps before coming to the U.S. when he was eight. So, the plight of the Ukrainian refugees hits home.

His focus?

“Take care of the people that are coming through, getting the medical supplies out to the front lines, and seeing how much more we can buy locally, or get people who are coming in from Poland to buy it for us.”

He took critical supplies with him.

“We’re trying to get those to the front lines where they really need them,” the veteran said.

His fellow marine had already opened his home as a way station for refugees trying to get out of the country.

A busy border crossing between Ukraine and Poland.  (Used by permission, Quan Nguyen)

“Women and children are staying there. They’ve brought in their pets, etc. So, they get a chance to shower. They get a chance to rest. They may stay here a day or two, they are fed, and then they go on their way,” Nguyen said.

On the surface, he said, you cannot tell the country is under siege in Lviv. But, he said police officers are on high alert, and there’s a lot of tension below the surface.

Meantime, the Russians attack new cities each day, including western cities not far from Lviv.

“Is it safe? Yes, for the time being,” he said. “But, obviously we’ve had shelling about 150 kilometers away. We’ve had refugees come in from there. So we’ll see.”

Right now, Nguyen is accepting Venmo donations at TF824, and online at TF824.org.* That stands for Task Force 824. August 24 is Ukrainian Independence Day.

*KSL TV does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisers and otherwise proceed at your own risk.

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Utah Marine Veteran helping refugees get out of Ukraine