U.S. veteran volunteers to fight in Ukraine: 'A continuation of what we signed on for'
U.S. Army veteran Matthew Parker couldn’t stand seeing the images of Ukrainians fleeing homes that were being destroyed by Russian forces. But it was the plea from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for the formation of an “international legion” that gave Parker the final push to enter the fray.
“It’s not easy on any human being to watch suffering. It’s really not easy for a soldier who’s been in combat to see it. Because we’ve seen it up close. You know it’s avoidable. The Russians are violating the law of war by doing what they’re doing,” Parker told Yahoo News.
He cited the Russian invasion’s increasing brutality toward Ukraine’s civilian population, of which 3 million have already fled the war and countless others huddled in shelters amid artillery and missile barrages.
“Every hospital that’s bombed, every baby that’s killed, every pregnant woman that’s killed, every orphan — that’s all our problem,” Parker said.
Parker joined the U.S. Army in 1990, fighting in both Bosnia and Iraq, and retired at the end of 2011. He returned home to South Carolina and has dedicated his time to his security training business.
Parker, who has four children, said he never envisioned returning to combat. But he said he views fighting for Ukraine as a continuation of his service — this time for democracy.
“Every single one of us, when we joined, raised our right hand and said we would support and defend the Constitution of the United States. We accepted a role above us,” he said. “To me this is a continuation of what we signed on for, to support and defend. But in this case, it may not be the Constitution of the United States. This is more serving mankind, serving people. What [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is doing is wrong,” he said.
As Parker prepares to leave for Ukraine on Thursday, he said his personal mission is to find the family of a Ukrainian soldier he knew who served alongside U.S. forces in Iraq. “I love that kid. I really do. He’s like one of my own kids. I wouldn’t tell him that,” he said.
“I’m gonna go find them. I will find his mother, I’ll find his sister and daughter. If they’re still somewhere near Odesa, I will go find them. And if I can get them to safety, I will. If they’re safe, you know, I still want to check in on them and see how they’re doing,” he said.