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SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – A former Vietnam refugee and American war veteran uses his decades of experience to help Ukrainians.
Quan Nguyen has seen all aspects of war.
He has just returned from two months in kyiv and Lviv, Ukraine, where he helped refugees.
He says one of the most difficult things he saw was an injured four-year-old child in the back of an ambulance calling for his mother.
Nguyen relocates to his home in Kaysville, Utah.
He and his wife Amy started the non-profit Task Force 824 after Russia invaded Ukraine.
August 24 is the date of Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
A week after starting the charity, Quan was heading to the war zone.
“I think we were in bed one night, and he just looked over, and I was like, ‘I know what you’re going to say,'” Amy said.
“In the early days, when I arrived in Kyiv, it was a ghost town,” Quan said.
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It helped provide refugees with shelter, transportation and essential supplies.
“Food prices skyrocketed, so there were people who couldn’t afford to buy a lot of groceries, so we made the decision: OK, great, I’m just going to go to a local store or grocery store and buy as much food as I can.
Quan served in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And he knows what it’s like to be kicked out of his home because he and his family fled Vietnam after the war.
“We got on the fishing boat, and unfortunately the fishing boat – the engine broke down, so we were stuck in the ocean for about a week or two. We had to ration water, and then we we were finally caught,” he said. “They sent my dad to a forced labor camp where his food consisted of pig feed. Sometimes they didn’t have enough water, so they would basically replenish their urine and try to strain it and drink it. .”
Quan says he sees himself in some of the refugees, who had to pack up and leave at all times with only one bag of belongings in hand.
Memories of fleeing Vietnam and living in refugee camps remain etched in her memory.
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“It’s like my family. We came here with everything we could carry,” he said. “Then PTSD itself I think is very similar.”
From now on, the memories of the Ukrainian war will remain etched in his memory.
One memory is when she was asked to help an injured four-year-old in the back of an ambulance because there was a shortage of paramedics.
The journey took 10 hours.
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“The medicine wore off and he was saying to his mother, ‘Everything hurts my ears, my eyes, my hair’ and I look at her, she looks at me,” he said. “The only thing the doctors gave us was that I think it was ibuprofen… I was just trying to think, racking my brains, what else can we do, put it comfortable, distracting him. It was difficult.”
While he was in Ukraine, his wife Amy took care of the organization’s logistics and social media, but they both plan to return this summer with their three children.
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