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Arkansas man travels to Ukraine to volunteer on frontlines during Russian invasion

A veteran from Northwest Arkansas felt the need to help the people of Ukraine who have dealt with months of war.

ARKANSAS, USA — Nearly 30,000 people have been killed during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and many Ukrainians still don’t have basic necessities like running water and electricity. That’s why a Northwest Arkansas man traveled across the world to volunteer his time.

Marine veteran Robert Trench spent two months of his summer helping the people of Ukraine.

“If you have the ability to help whether it’s a tornado in Springdale or whether it’s a war in Ukraine…the human aspect of it is where it’s at, it’s not picking a side, it’s not bleeding blue or yellow,” he said.

French made the trip to Ukraine in July and spent two months there volunteering for the organization the Mozart Group. He is a U.S. Marine veteran who has also been a government contractor spending time in Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel.

“It was pretty interesting," he said. "It’s like half the country doesn’t know they are at war. I mean life has to go on, you can’t live in that perpetual state of catastrophe and chaos."

French and around eight others from the Mozart Group were able to evacuate more than 160 people in the 60 days they were in Ukraine.

Along with help from the Red Cross, they took the civilians to the north or west where there wasn’t fighting, or over to Poland.

“You have normal life like restaurants and living in hotels and AC and running water and all that, and then you go to the front and people are living in bombed-out shelters making their own candles, no power, no running water,” French said.

He says it was awful to see schools, hospitals and everything in between demolished because of Russian fire. 

The group's other mission was to provide humanitarian aid deliveries. He says the only food and water civilians received were from volunteers. 

He also helped train a unit of the Ukrainian army.

“No matter what the politics are, no matter what side of the fence, why Putin crossed the line, those families didn’t request it and probably didn’t do anything to deserve it and they have no means to get out of the way,” he said.

French says he is considering going back to volunteer as soon as next month.

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