The former Marines from Houston had no idea what to expect what then they finally arrived at the Polish-Ukrainian border.
What the members of the CrowdSource Rescue team found was “a heart-wrenching mess” — a miles-long caravan of Ukrainians attempting to flee their home country and a similar mob from across Europe trying to shuttle supplies to beleaguered cities.
For weeks following news of Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself against Russian forces, members of the Houston volunteer rescue group tried to figure out how to best help, just like they had dozens of times before.
“We have to do something,” CrowdSource Rescue founder Matthew Marchetti recalled thinking. But almost instantly, he doubted the instinct, telling himself: “That is a terrible idea.”
The DIY rescue organization was born in the torrential downpours of Hurricane Harvey, when good Samaritans from across the region banded together to rescue stranded neighbors. The impromptu rescuers then formed an organization to help during natural disasters and emergencies, including other tropical storms, last year’s deep freeze and the COVID-19 pandemic.
So when Russia began bombarding Ukraine in February, members of the volunteer rescue organization immediately began brainstorming ways to help beleaguered residents there, Marchetti said.
His volunteers didn’t speak the language or know the region. And while some have combat experience, they’d be entering Ukraine as civilian rescuers, not as heavily armored soldiers.
“We have a unique set of skills,” he said. “We’re combat vets who understand war zones, really adept at search and rescue, and have medical experience, and we have folks who understand the finer points of communications security.”
Eventually, a trio of volunteers — former Marines who’d served in combat deployments and then responded to multiple hurricanes — decided to travel to Ukraine to work with a local group to help evacuate disabled residents having trouble getting out of dangerous spots.
They packed go-bags with a few days of clothes, portable phone chargers, flashlights, emergency blankets, gas masks, and other sundries. And they filled other luggage with donated medical supplies.
“We’re just some stupid Marines who decided we wanted to make difference,” Christopher said. “People have been kind enough to give us a purpose again.”
There’s more, so read on. You can follow their exploits on Twitter. As you might imagine, this kind of self-appointed effort is not without some criticism, to which they have responded here. I wish them well in their efforts and hope they can make a difference for whoever they can.