Former Vietnam refugee, American war veteran returns home after two months of volunteering in Ukraine

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A former Vietnam refugee and American combat veteran is using his decades of experience to help Ukrainians.

Quan Nguyen has seen all sides of the war.

He has just returned from two months spent in Kiev and Lviv, Ukraine, where he helped refugees.

He says one of the hardest things he saw was an injured four-year-old boy in the back of an ambulance calling his mother.

Nguyen is settling back into his home in Kaysville, Utah.

He and his wife Amy started the non-profit organization Task Force 824 after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Quan Nguyen, a former Vietnam refugee and American combat veteran, spent two months volunteering in Ukraine, while his wife Amy managed the logistics and social media of their nonprofit at their home in Utah. (Ashley Soriano / Fox News)

Quan Nguyen, a former Vietnam refugee and American combat veteran, spent two months volunteering in Ukraine, while his wife Amy managed the logistics and social media of their nonprofit at their home in Utah. (Ashley Soriano / Fox News)

August 24 is the date of Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

A week after setting up the charity, Quan was headed for the war zone.

“I think we were in bed one night, and he just looked over, and I thought, ‘I know what you’re going to say,’” Amy said.

“In the first days I arrived in Kiev, it was a ghost town,” Quan said.

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It helped find refuge, transportation and essential supplies for refugees.

“Food prices have skyrocketed, so there were people who couldn’t afford to buy a lot of groceries, so we made the decision: OK, great, I’ll go to a local store or grocery store and buy lots of food. as much as I can. “

Quan served in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And he knows what it’s like to be forced out of home because he and his family fled Vietnam after the war.

Quan Nguyen and his family fled Vietnam for the first time in 1977, headed for the United States. They successfully succeeded in 1980. (Quan Nguyen)

“We got on the trawler and, unfortunately, on the trawler – the engine went out, so we were stuck in the ocean for about a week or two. We had to ration the water and eventually we got caught,” he said. “They sent my father to a forced labor camp where his food consists of pig feed. Sometimes they didn’t get enough water, so they basically reconstituted their urine and tried to filter and drink it.”

Quan says he sees some of the refugees, who had to pack their bags and leave without warning with only one bag in hand.

Memories of his escape from Vietnam and of life in refugee camps remain with him.

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“It’s just like my family. We literally came here with everything we could carry,” he said. “Then PTSD itself, I think it’s very similar.”

Now, even the memories of the war in Ukraine will remain with him.

Quan Nguyen, who volunteered in Kiev and Lviv, Ukraine for two months, says Kiev was a ghost town when he arrived. (Quan Nguyen)

Quan Nguyen, who volunteered in Kiev and Lviv, Ukraine for two months, says Kiev was a ghost town when he arrived. (Quan Nguyen)

One memory is when he was asked to help an injured four-year-old boy in the back of an ambulance because there is a shortage of paramedics.

The journey took 10 hours.

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“The drug vanished and she was saying to her mother, ‘Everything hurts my ears, eyes, hair,’ and I’m looking at her, she’s looking at me,” he said. “The only thing the doctors gave us was that I thought it was ibuprofen … I was just trying to think, puzzling, what else we can do, put him at ease, distract him. It was tough.”

While in Ukraine, his wife Amy took care of the non-profit organization’s logistics and social media, but both plan to return this summer along with their three children.