CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — U.S. Navy veteran Frank Tate wasted no time.
Four days after Russia invaded Ukraine, the Clarksville man found himself on a plane headed to Eastern Europe, where he helped orphans evacuate Kyiv to return them to safety.
"I got a phone call that says, 'How quickly can you have a bag packed?' And I said 24 hours. And they said can you go to Ukraine? And I said, yea," Tate said. "I would want somebody to come help and that was the stance with my wife. I said, at the end of the day, I’ve been in that environment. I’ve trained for that environment. I gotta go over there."
Tate decided to help through the Nashville nonprofit Aerial Recovery Group, which set up refugee camps outside Kyiv.
The group later transitioned to move hundreds of orphans out of harm's way.
"A child at 3-years-old doesn’t comprehend that," he said. "But then when you hear the air raid sirens for the first time, the hair stands up on your back and you’re like, OK what is that? Why is that? I think the emotional toll is going to impact them for the rest of their lives."
The situation only appears to be getting worse. Volunteer Josh Martinez is still in Ukraine, and said air raids near the Polish border have escalated.
"There is no respect for human life, from these Russian forces," said Martinez, who called Tate during the NewsChannel 5 interview. "It’s exhausting, physically and emotionally, very taxing — especially for the kids. They’re already incredibly traumatized, and they’ve experienced just so much suffering and the chaos just continues to add to it."
That's why — from Frank's quiet front porch — he's already planning his return.
"I think we could be moving kids for the next month, but after that, what’s the next mission? And the next mission is what kind of care can we provide? What kind of support and housing can we provide?" Tate said.
Before he goes back, Tate said he wanted to raise money to provide ballistic vests to children in the war zone.
"The way Ukrainians united together to protect each other and the land they love is something we can all take a lesson from," he said. "I feel it was a reverberation of how I feel for America. Importantly as an American patriot and professional, I felt compelled to act."
For those who want to help Tate and Aerial Recovery Group, visit https://www.facebook.com/donate/361428035829624/ [facebook.com]