DENVER (KDVR) — As the violence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine rages on, a Colorado veteran has just returned back to the U.S. after spending months in the war-torn country.
Daniel Taylor served six years in the U.S. Navy and for the last six months he’s been volunteering his time, knowledge and training skills to help Ukrainian citizens and members of the Ukrainian military. The veteran is back in Colorado and opened up about his journey on Tuesday afternoon with FOX31.
Facing grief, gunfire, bombings
Taylor scrolled through his phone, passing images and videos of his time in Ukraine, each with a special meaning.
“We had 200 kilograms of noodles, macaroni to be specific, that we were transporting with emergency supplies,” Taylor said.
Taylor has been back on U.S. soil for 72 hours, but for the last six months, the veteran has been volunteering in the middle of a warzone.
“I just felt like it was the right thing to do at the time,” Taylor said. “It was horrible to see.”
He’s witnessed first-hand the harsh realities and blood shed of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that’s now been fueling since February. Taylor shared an emotional moment that he said changed his life while visiting a cemetery in Ukraine.
“There was a woman,” Taylor recalled. “She was hysterical. She was next to a very fresh grave and then she just kept saying, ‘This is my son, this is my son.’ And then she would switch and tell us how he was raised and such a good student. Then she was like, ‘Now he’s here,’ and it just broke our hearts so bad.”
Tugging at his heart strings, Taylor also recalled a time when he was caught in gunfire and bombings.
“As soon as the enemy picked up English/American voices on the radio, we just got shelled all day,” Taylor said. “Being shelled is one of the worst experiences that I personally had.”
Coloradan in Ukraine shares military knowledge
Although no longer in the service, the service is in him. For months Taylor has been breaking bread, literally and figuratively, with Ukrainians. He showed FOX31 photos of him enjoying meals and cooking with local citizens. However, beyond that Taylor helped in any way possible, which included transporting food and supplies and teaching medical and weapons training.
“Some of the guys had never shot a gun in their life,” Taylor said. “They had never held a gun before and were part of the Ukrainian military. Giving them the ability to, in an organized and safe manner, go to a range and learn how to shoot their weapon and reload is what we did.”
Taylor said that among the bad, there is so much light among the people. He said although they are deeply saddened by what’s going on, they’re incredibly tough and resilient people. The Navy veteran said they’re just people trying to survive the horrors or war, who have treated him and his buddies like family.
Although Taylor is just getting back to Colorado, he said that he’s built forever friendships with people who are fighting to live each day.
“They need for us to not forget about them,” Taylor told FOX31. “I feel bad not being there with them right now.”
So, what’s next for Taylor? He shares that he’s taking a small mental break in the U.S. but is planning on going back to Ukraine ”again and again and again, until it’s over, to be with his Ukrainian friends and now brothers.”