Jozefowicz now leads a group called Task Force Yankee, which he says has placed more than 190 volunteers in combat slots and other roles while delivering nearly 15,000 first aid kits, helping move more than 80 families and helping deliver dozens of pallets of food and medical supplies. on the southern and eastern fronts of the war.
It is difficult and dangerous work. But Jozefowicz said he felt helpless watching from the United States last year during the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, especially after a close friend, Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, died in a suicide bombing in Kabul.
“So I’m just trying to do whatever I can to make sure I can help others not go through what I’ve been through,” he said in an interview on Saturday via a messaging platform.
A former US Marine who died last week would be the first US citizen killed in combat in Ukraine. Willy Joseph Cancel, 22, died on Monday while working for a military company that sent him to Ukraine, his mother, Rebecca Cabrera, told Les actualites.
An unknown number of other Americans – many with military backgrounds – are believed to be in the country fighting Russian forces alongside Ukrainians and volunteers from other countries, although US forces are not directly involved in the fighting apart from sending military equipment, humanitarian aid and money.
The invasion of Russia has given the Ukrainian embassy in Washington the task of responding to requests from thousands of Americans who want to help in the fight, and Ukraine is using the Internet to recruit volunteers for a foreign force, the International Defense Legion of Ukraine.
“Anyone who wants to join the defense of security in Europe and the world can come and stand with Ukrainians against the invaders of the 21st century,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said during a recruitment speech.
Texan Anja Osmon, who toured Iraq and Afghanistan while serving in the US military from 2009 to 2015, said she traveled to Ukraine alone. A doctor, she said she arrived in Ukraine on March 20 and lived in the woods with other International Legion members before a new commander fired her because he didn’t want female fighters.
Osmon, 30, said her mother wanted her home by September. But for now, she is eager to get out of the hotel where she is staying in Lviv and join another fighting force closer to the action.
“I cannot turn away from injustice,” she said. “No one should be afraid. »
US Navy veteran Eddy Etue said he quit his job in the gig economy, found a friend in Colorado to babysit his cat and abandoned his home four blocks from the beach in San Diego, in California, to help in Ukraine, where he was about two weeks. He first worked with an aid organization, but now trains with the International Legion.
Etue, 36, said he just couldn’t stay home. “It’s just the right thing to do,” said Etue, who funded the trip through an online fundraising campaign.
Etue’s family history pushed him to Ukraine. He said his grandparents left Hungary with nothing but their four children and clothes after the 1956 revolution, which was suppressed by Soviet forces that killed or injured thousands.
“What happens here will not only affect the people who experience it, but also their children and grandchildren,” he said. “I know that from personal experience. »
Jozefowicz, the former Chicago cop, says there are thousands of American and other volunteers in Ukraine. Several organizations operate in the country, and Jozefowicz said his group alone has placed dozens of volunteers in positions across the country, about 40 of which were combat jobs.
“We do not facilitate the entry of a civilian into a direct action role. We are just guiding and connecting ex-military volunteers,” he said.
But there is plenty of other work to do. Groups of volunteers provide medical and food supplies to people in the country of 44 million people, he said, and others work with refugees and others who have had to flee their homes.
“The closer I got to Ukraine and the more time I spent in Ukraine, the more gaps I found to fill to maximize my group’s volunteer efforts,” he said.
Osmon, who said she had been in contact with Jozefowicz’s group, said she provided the troops with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs after days in the woods.
“Almost everyone had air raid fever hiding in the trenches in the snow and cold air,” she said. “Bronchitis was ravaging us. »
Etue said he got a feel for the country after taking a 24-hour round trip with another volunteer to pick up a vehicle in Odessa. He said he was impressed with the quality of people serving in the International Legion since the Ukrainians have done a good job weeding out the inexperienced and “war tourists” who don’t have much to offer a unit military.
“I think they’re doing incredibly well considering they’re at war with one of the largest standing armies in the world,” he said.