MISSOULA - Seth Hirchag was sitting with some friends at church when the news broke of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The 26-year-old said he immediately told the group that he was going to get involved.
“Everybody knew that this was going to be something very bad,” Hirchag said. “I knew that I had to do something.”
He is a US Army veteran, wildland firefighter, and worked in Colorado on an alpine rescue team.
Trying to find a way to use his medical training to help, he found a small group of veterans on social media called Phantom Support Ukraine (PSU).
“With my EMT and fire experience and military experience they were all about it,” Hirchag said. “I sold all of my things, packed up my room, and for the last week I’ve been collecting medical supplies.”
PSU has collected surplus medical supplies from organizations across the country to take to field hospitals in Ukraine.
In less than a week, Hirchag has become their most successful gatherer of goods.
Stacked in bags in his living room, Hirchag estimates the hundreds of pounds of tourniquets, bandages, and IV equipment could save countless lives.
“They need people with military experience to get these supplies to where they need to be,” Hirchag said. “People who also aren’t afraid to go into a situation that could possibly lead to their death. I’m willing to do that. If not me, then who?”
It took just a few phone calls and posts on social media before Hirchag was overloaded with supplies.
Fire departments in Missoula and Frenchtown, local medical supply stores, and an outdoor gear store chipped in, as well as many private donations.
Showing hundreds of pages of supply requests from Ukrainian hospitals, Hirchag said the support is overwhelming.
“It helps more than they can ever imagine,” Hirchag said. “The way that Missoula and the Bitterroot Valley has come together to give me these supplies to take to Ukraine. It's astronomical, it’s unbelievable, it’s a blessing.”
Fearing for his safety, Hirchag gave few details about plans to get into Ukraine, but involve taking a truck full of supplies to PSU headquarters in Vermont, flying to Romania, and then crossing the border with several nonprofit partnerships.
Hirchag said PSU is partnering closely with Austere Medical Relief Group, a group of combat medical veterans who are training Ukrainian doctors on the ground in field hospitals.
“Finance can only go so far,” Hirchag said. “Having someone on the ground working at an aid station to help stop bleeding and stabilize a patient so we can get them to a hospital, that’s vital.”
More than 10 million people and half of Ukraine’s children have fled their homes. Despite real dangers to personal safety, Hirchag says that for these people, he is willing to sacrifice.
“One tourniquet could save someone’s life,” Hirchag said. “If it just so happens that I lose my life over there, as long as I saved one person, I think it’s worth it.”
Although Hirchag says he has gathered more than $50,000 in supplies, PSU still needs more of the following equipment:
- Armored Plate Carriers
- Gas Masks
- Chemical Biohazard Suits
- Monetary Funding
If you would like to know more on how to donate to Hirchag and PSU, visit https://phantomsupportukraine.org/.