KHARKIV, Ukraine — Joshua Curry knows he is risking his life, going with other volunteers out past the last of the Ukrainian military’s checkpoints to the very “Zero Line” to pick up refugees fleeing from Russian territory.

“That’s well worth it because of the impact I’m able to make to innocent civilians,” he said. “I’m just one life. If I can impact ten and save ten people let alone a thousand, that’s how I weigh it.”

Curry, 32, graduated from Medomak Valley High School in 2008. He was a local athlete growing up in Warren and an Eagle Scout with Troop 200 out of Camden. As a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, he served as a Flight Officer on E-2C Hawkeyes flying off the Nimitz Class Aircraft Carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. Hawkeyes are Command and Control planes with large radar rotodomes on their tops.

Curry compared his work in the Navy to that of the character Goose from “Top Gun.”

With Task Force Yankee, a nonprofit organization sending mostly veterans to Ukraine, he has been helping deliver much-needed medical supplies and food to refugees and displaced persons. He works near the front lines in Eastern Ukraine now and has been on the ground in Europe since shortly after the war began.

“When we’re in the city, you hear explosions all around you,” he said. “You’ll hear rockets, explosions, mortar fire on a daily basis. That is nothing new here. It’s not off in the distance. Just the other day we were in a business meeting in an apartment building, and artillery fire hit just a couple of hundred meters away, killed five and injured another 10 or 11 in that strike. It was all civilians, and we were not that far away.”

“It’s because of the war that I’m here,” he said. “Prior to, I maybe could have told you where Ukraine was on a map. When things kicked off, I knew this was a place that needed help. In my opinion there’s a very clear right and wrong about this war, and I knew if people didn’t stand up and do what they could to help the people of Ukraine a lot worse was coming.”

Curry arrived in Ukraine in March and helped set up a safe house on the border in Poland to help some among the massive influx of refugees fleeing the war.

“There were tens of thousands of people there all packed on each other,” he said. “It was not a good situation: unsafe, unsanitary, uncomfortable for everyone.”

The war in Ukraine has displaced more than 6 million people. Photo courtesy of Joshua Curry

Curry’s group brought in beds and provided shelter for as many as they could. In addition, they hired a Polish/English interpreter to help the refugees plan for their next steps, whether that meant moving to another country, taking on a new job or applying for aid.

At this point, his mission was on the somewhat safer Western side of the country. Over time, his group transitioned to working on bringing important supplies to not only refugees, but Ukrainian fighting forces. This work was based out of the capital of Kyiv.

Each volunteer from Task Force Yankee was tasked with bringing over at least one full suitcase of medical supplies to be donated to the cause. In particular, they needed military IFAKs or Individual First Aid Kits. These are highly specialized kits with items needed to stop bleeding and deal with bullet wounds and shrapnel.

Task Force Yankee helps provide supplies to people in Ukraine. Photo courtesy of Joshua Curry

In addition, his group, which included many well-trained military veterans, began sharing their knowledge with those in Ukraine who would need it. Specifically, they provided training in what the U.S. military refers to as Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC).

Curry said every soldier and many of the civilians in the danger zone should have these medical kits and this training, but only about one in four soldiers have the equipment they need.

From there, he moved further east, within 15 miles of the front lines in Kharkiv. Here his group provides humanitarian assistance to Internally Displaced Persons within the disputed territory called “No Man’s Land” and up to the “Zero Line,” beyond which one is in Russian-held territory.

The mission is two-fold, providing evacuation for those fleeing Russian occupation. These refugees tend to bribe the Russians to be allowed to cross the Zero Line where they can be picked up by Task Force Yankee. The other aspect of the mission is bringing food and necessary supplies to those living in No Man’s Land.

Volunteers in Ukraine are used to nearby artillery fire, rocket strikes and mortar hits. Photo Courtesy of Joshua Curry

He has witnessed first-hand the effects of severe malnutrition, where a girl age 17 looks no older than 13.

However, he praised the dedication, courage and perseverance of the Ukrainian people. They do not ask if they will win the war, but when.

Curry acknowledged he may be killed doing this work. His wife, Ariel, waits at home for him in Chattanooga, Tenn., and he said she has been very supportive.

“This is something I have to do for my own conscience,” Curry said. “I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing that all of this is taking place and I’m not doing everything in my power to bring some relief to the people here. These are all innocent parties. All of these civilians didn’t ask for this or want to be a part of this. They are stuck in the middle.”

Asked why he is talking to the press, he said there is a need for more attention to be placed on the war and for more volunteers and donations. Task Force Yankee is a nonprofit operating in Ukraine to help in the humanitarian effort, one of many. He said when the war first broke out, there was more attention in the media. Since it has slipped from being the lead story, donations are down.

Curry believes the U.S. should get involved in the war, arguing appeasement will not work with the Russians. If Ukraine falls, Curry argues, more nations will follow.

Signs of war in Ukraine. Photo courtesy of Joshua Curry