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Matthew Parker, a U.S. Army veteran of 20 years, is heading to Ukraine to assist the country’s military in any capacity he can in its fight against Russian military forces.
Parker, who owns a protective services training firm called Independent Security Advisors, LLC, plans to fly into Poland within the next few days and coordinate with his contacts there to help him cross the border into Ukraine.
“I don’t like what’s happening on the ground over there. And I’ve seen what happens when civilians are caught in the middle of a war, and I found that the Russians have a tendency — when they can’t win — to basically burn bridges,” Parker told Fox News Digital.
The 50-something father of four adult children added that he had become close to a Ukrainian soldier who served under him for about a year and a half when he was in the Army. That soldier still has family in Ukraine, including a sister with disabilities, which Parker said is part of the inspiration behind his decision to offer his assistance there.
Parker had plans to leave about a week ago but delayed his departure after receiving an influx of inquiries from other American and foreign volunteers — many of whom have military or first-responder backgrounds — who want his help to get to Ukraine.
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Some volunteers are young men who have been out of the military for two to 10 years, Parker said.
“When you’ve been to Iraq or Afghanistan, or like me, you’ve been to Bosnia, and you see the carnage and tragedy of war, you don’t turn that off,” he explained.
“Now, before some … person says, ‘Oh, that’s PTSD.’ No, it’s not PTSD. That’s called memory. And when you see women and children hungry, their homes destroyed — when you stand on the edge of a mass grave and look down … it’s the same anger. It’s the same ignorance. It’s the same lack of human compassion that the Russians are showing right now as they bomb these cities. As they bomb hospitals.”
His company does executive and diplomatic protection work, so Parker has experience deploying training teams and agents to countries around the world, as FOX 5 Atlanta first reported.
“So I took that experience and I put these young men together and said, ‘Listen, you need a will, an attorney. If you own something it needs to go into storage. You can’t just leave your car in the airport,” Parker explained.
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He’s also helping volunteers gather proper equipment for cold and snowy weather conditions in Ukraine and contact the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine to inform them when volunteers are arriving and with what skills.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy created the International Legion days after Russia invaded on Feb. 24 and lifted visa restrictions for foreign volunteers.
“Anyone who wants to join the defense of Ukraine, Europe and the world can come and fight side by side with the Ukrainians against the Russian war criminals,” a Feb. 27 press release from his office states.
Parker has contacts in Poland and Ukraine who offer volunteers rides from the airport, a place to stay for the night, and rides across the Ukraine border. Once inside Ukraine, volunteers check in with the International Legion and hope to be assigned to specific groups based on skill sets.
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“Now, they can totally disregard everything [a volunteer] gets there. You know, he could be a highly trained electronics repairman. They could hand him a rifle and say, ‘Go guard a bridge,'” Parker said. “This is so new, and they’re under such pressure. The fact that they are able to stand the legion up at all is amazing.”
Parker says his four children weren’t surprised when he informed them of his plans.
“The boys were used to me being in Iraq, and the fact that this is not Iraq and it’s not the Army sending me … They all said the same thing. One: ‘We knew you were going to do it,’ but, two, ‘We trust you,’” he said.
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Ukraine has been under attack for 15 days. An estimated 2.3 million people have fled Ukraine so far, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights estimates that 549 Ukrainians have been killed as of Thursday, and nearly a thousand others have been injured since Russia began invading on Feb. 24.