Combat death puts spotlight on Americans fighting in Ukraine

Apr 30, 2022, 8:14 PM | Updated: May 1, 2022, 3:18 pm

Eddy Etue, an American who left home for Ukraine to help in the fight against Russia, is shown in a self portrait taken on Sunday, May 1, 2022. The U.S. Marine veteran said he quit his job in the gig economy, found a friend in Colorado to watch his cat and gave up his home four blocks from the beach in San Diego, Calif., to help out in Ukraine, where he's been about two weeks. He first worked with an aid organization but now is training with the International Legion. (AP Photo/Eddy Etue)

(AP Photo/Eddy Etue)

Harrison Jozefowicz quit his job as a Chicago police officer and headed overseas soon after Russia invaded Ukraine. An Army veteran, he said he couldn’t help but join American volunteers seeking to help Ukrainians in their fight.

Jozefowicz now heads a group called Task Force Yankee, which he said has placed more than 190 volunteers in combat slots and other roles while delivering nearly 15,000 first aid kits, helping relocate more than 80 families and helping deliver dozens of pallets of food and medical supplies to the southern and eastern fronts of the war.

It’s difficult, dangerous work. But Jozefowicz said he felt helpless watching from the United States last year during the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan, particularly after a close friend, Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, died in a suicide bombing at Kabul.

“So, I’m just trying to do everything I can to make sure I can help others not go through what I went through,” he said Saturday during an interview conducted through a messaging platform.

A former U.S. Marine who died last week was believed to be the first American citizen killed while fighting in Ukraine. Willy Joseph Cancel, 22, died Monday while working for a military contracting company that sent him to Ukraine, his mother, Rebecca Cabrera, told CNN.

An undetermined number of other Americans — many with military backgrounds — are thought to be in the country battling Russian forces beside both Ukrainians and volunteers from other countries even though U.S. forces aren’t directly involved in fighting aside from sending military materiel, humanitarian aid and money. The U.S. government discourages Americans from fighting in Ukraine, which raises legal and national security issues.

Russia’s invasion has given Ukraine’s embassy in Washington the task of fielding inquiries 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 Legion of Defense of Ukraine.

“Anyone who wants to join the defense of security in Europe and the world can come and stand side by side with the Ukrainians against the invaders of the 21st century,” President President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a recruitment pitch.

Texan Anja Osmon, who did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan while serving in the U.S. Army from 2009 through 2015, said she went to Ukraine on her own. A medic, she said she arrived in Ukraine on March 20 and lived in the woods with other members of the International Legion before a new commander sent her away because he didn’t want female fighters.

Osmon, 30, said her mother wants her home before September. But for now she’s anxious to get out of the hotel where she is staying in Lviv and catch on with another fighting force nearer the action.

“I can’t turn away from injustice,” she said. “No one should be scared.”

U.S. Marine veteran Eddy Etue said he quit his job in the gig economy, found a friend in Colorado to watch his cat and gave up his home four blocks from the beach in San Diego, California, to help out in Ukraine, where he’s been about two weeks. He first worked with an aid organization but now is training with the International Legion.

Etue, 36, said he simply couldn’t stay home. “It’s just the right thing to do,” said Etue, who financed the journey through an online fundraising campaign.

Etue’s family history pulled him toward Ukraine. He said his grandparents left Hungary with nothing but their four children and clothes after the 1956 revolution, which was put down by Soviet forces that killed or wounded thousands.

“What’s happening here will affect not only the people who are experiencing it but their children and grandchildren as well,” he said. “I know that from personal experience.”

Jozefowicz, the former Chicago cop, says there are thousands of American and other volunteers in Ukraine. Multiple organizations are operating in the country, and Jozefowicz said his group alone has placed scores of volunteers in positions all over the country, with about 40 of those being combat jobs.

“We do not facilitate a civilian going into any direct-action role. We only guide and connect prior military volunteers,” he said.

But there’s plenty of other work to do. Groups of volunteers are getting medical and food supplies to people in the nation of 44 million people, he said, and others are working with refugees and others who’ve had to flee their homes.

“The closer I got into Ukraine and the more time I spent in Ukraine, the more voids I found that needed to be filled to maximize my groups volunteer efforts,” he said.

Osmon, who said she’s been in contact with Jozefowicz’s group, said she supplied troops with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications after days in the woods.

“Most everyone had air raid fever from 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 making a 24-hour round trip with another volunteer to pick up a vehicle in Odessa. He said he’s been impressed with the quality of people serving in the International Legion since Ukrainians have done a good job of weeding out the inexperienced and “war tourists” who don’t have much to offer a military unit.

“I think they’re doing amazingly well given that they’re at war with one of the largest standing armies in the world,” he said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


File - People shop at an Apple store in the Westfield Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus, New Jerse...
Associated Press

A key inflation gauge tracked by the Fed slowed in February

The Federal Reserve's favored inflation gauge slowed sharply last month, an encouraging sign in the Fed's yearlong effort to cool price pressures through steadily higher interest rates.
9 hours ago
FILE - The OpenAI logo is seen on a mobile phone in front of a computer screen displaying output fr...
Associated Press

Musk, scientists call for halt to AI race sparked by ChatGPT

Are tech companies moving too fast in rolling out powerful artificial intelligence technology that could one day outsmart humans?
1 day ago
Associated Press

Starbucks leader grilled by Senate over anti-union actions

Longtime Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz faced sharp questioning Wednesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
2 days ago
FILE - The overdose-reversal drug Narcan is displayed during training for employees of the Public H...
Associated Press

FDA approves over-the-counter Narcan; here’s what it means

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved selling naloxone without a prescription, the first over-the-counter opioid treatment.
2 days ago
FILE - A Seattle police officer walks past tents used by people experiencing homelessness, March 11...
Associated Press

Seattle, feds seek to end most oversight of city’s police

  SEATTLE (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department and Seattle officials asked a judge Tuesday to end most federal oversight of the city’s police department, saying its sustained, decade-long reform efforts are a model for other cities whose law enforcement agencies face federal civil rights investigations. Seattle has overhauled virtually all aspects of its police […]
3 days ago
capital gains tax budgets...
Associated Press

Washington moves to end child sex abuse lawsuit time limits

People who were sexually abused as children in Washington state may soon be able to bring lawsuits against the state, schools or other institutions for failing to stop the abuse, no matter when it happened.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.
Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.
SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!
safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Combat death puts spotlight on Americans fighting in Ukraine