The Hernandez family, who are from El Paso, Texas, is sounding the alarm about it, as their son, Alex, who left in March, is now clinging to life after being critically injured during the war.
His parents say they haven’t been able to get him back home.
“Hopefully nothing bad happens but if it does, you know … take care of all my siblings and stay strong for them,” Alex Ortiz said in a voice message to his mom.
The message was sent before he was critically injured by shrapnel fighting Russian forces in Ukraine.
“I would beg him to come back. ‘Please don’t go. Alex, I’m begging you. Please don’t do this,’” Alex’s mom, Sara, recounted to NewsNation.
However, despite his parents wishes, the Marine veteran decided to sign a contract in March to fight with the Ukrainian Army.
“My initial response was, ‘I understand why you wanna go and I admire you for that. I don’t recommend you go,’” said Alex’s stepfather, Cruz Hernandez.
When the voice messages stopped, Alex’ mom and stepdad flew to Kiev and found him in a Ukrainian hospital fighting for his life.
“To be honest with you, I couldn’t recognize him. Usually, my son is like around 160 pounds .. my son was probably maybe 70 to 80 pounds, he’s missing an eye and he had his head bandaged due to the trauma to his brain,” Sara said.
The Ukrainian army has since transported Ortiz out of the country. He’s now in a hospital in Germany where nurses Facetimed his loved ones in El Paso.
But Facetime is not enough. The family wants their soldier home. Only problem is, the transfer home on a specially equipped, ICU hospital plane could cost $300,000 or more — money the family doesn’t have.
“The VA has said that they couldn’t help us; different organizations have said they couldn’t help us because he went on his own accord; even the United States government has said, ‘You are on your own,’” Cruz said.
Such was confirmed by veteran military officials.
“Tragically, any of these injuries that result from serving alongside Ukraine at the moment are not considered service related,” Ryan Gallucci, a national service director of Veterans of Foreign Wars , said on NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” on Tuesday.
Gallucci also says the dilemma with Ortiz comes down to the fact that he wasn’t deployed, meaning there’s no responsibility from the United States to bring him home.
“Look, illnesses and injuries aren’t explicitly covered right now through the Department of Veterans Affairs or anything like that. So if you are injured in the line of duty, it’s really contingent on the resources you have at your disposal or the resource available locally through the Ukrainian military, or the contract you entered into,” he continued.
The family has started a GoFundMe to try and raise the money needed to bring their son back to the States safely. So far, they’ve raised just north of $41,000.
The VFW agrees that the charitable route is his most likely option of making it back.