A former Green Beret medic working at a Skagway clinic looked at the Ukraine situation and decided, though youth was somewhat behind him, that there must be some aid he could offer.
Now, Brent Kunzler is fundraising to help support a triage station in the beleaguered country.
“I was in Iraq for quite a while. I’ve been in other places. I’m watching this mess unfold on TV and I just felt like I gotta go do something. I’m old, I’m fat, I’m out of shape, but there’s always something I can do,” Kunzler said in a phone interview. “I know some people, and we’re going to set up a triage unit close to the border in Ukraine.”
Kunzler, who is 70, will be flying to Europe in several days, securing medical supplies locally to save on shipping expenses before crossing the border from Poland and setting up the aid station. Kunzler recently moved to Skagway to work as medical director of a clinic there from Utah, where he hails from.
“I’m not going to stay very long. I’m going to set it up and do what I can do to make it work. I have some trauma bags I’m going to take with me,” Kunzler said. “We’ll head south to the crossing and set up in a place down there.”
Kunzler said he was moved by his experience in other war zones providing combat trauma care for special forces units to go help out. Russian forces have targeted hospitals, schools, and other civilian structures and shelters in “immoral, unethical attacks on civilian populations”, according to President Joe Biden, who called the attacks “Putin’s depraved onslaught.” The Ukrainian government claims thousands of civilians have died.
“Being in the military, you know if you get injured, you got only a certain amount of time to get it fixed,” Kunzler said. “You’re seeing a population pretty much decimated with indirect fire and aircraft unloading their (cruise missiles) or whatever they’re using. These people are sitting in their houses one day and the next day they’re just blown up.”
Kunzler, who trained as a Special Forces medic during the Vietnam War and worked his way up from ambulance driver to a physician’s assistant and medical director over the years, said he’s not intending to go to the front lines, though he’s prepared if they end up in combat.
“There’s always that threat,” Kunzler said. “It’s a risk you take. But it’s nothing I haven’t taken before.”
Kunzler said he won’t be there for long; he’ll go to help start up the aid station and then support it from outside the conflict area with support and supplies, if possible.
“We’ll make that connection. If I can start funneling either funds or supplies when I get back, that’s what I’m gonna do,” Kunzler said. “I’m just going over to help a little bit and maybe help a little more further on.”
The conflict is a critical one, Kunzler said, warning that WWII started in much the same way.
“I think it’s a good thing to put public awareness on,” Kunzler said.
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or email@example.com.