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U.S. veteran leaves for Poland to help Ukrainian troops

There was a massive outpouring of community support at the airport Monday.

BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn. — With his bags packed for more than a week, an East Tennessee combat veteran Marine is about to ferry medical supplies from the United States to Ukraine. The first leg of his journey started Monday when he boarded an airplane to Eastern Europe. 

Right now, Larry Winters is in the sky headed to help Ukrainian troops. Loved ones, veterans and members of the Young Marines gathered at Tyson McGhee Airport to see him on his way.

"I envy Larry, I envy him very much. I wish I had the stamina to go with him because I would. I look at Larry as a local hero. I look at his wife as a local hero," Veteran Rick Freetag said. "I wouldn't miss it, I'm glad I could be here."

Winters is highly involved with the Young Marines of East Tennessee. His young troop came to the airport to show support. 

Credit: Mary Klingler
Larry Winters at McGhee Tyson Airport before making his journey to help Ukrainian troops in Poland

"He is brave," Young Marine Jesse Winger said. "I'm nervous for him, but I hope for the best for him and I hope that he will help all the people in need."

Winters, a former U.S. Marine and combat veteran, is headed to Poland hoping to help Ukrainian troops obtain much-needed medical supplies. 

"It's been a hectic week trying to get all of the shots and all of the documents I needed to get into Poland," Winters said. 

After more than a week of preparation, the day has finally come for Winters to say goodbye to his loved ones as he departs on a 30-day trip. 

"Once I get into Warsaw, I'll go to the Ukrainian Embassy and I'll see their military attaché and find out what we can do, I'm taking about $4,000 with me," he said. 

The money, he said, will be used to buy those medical supplies for the hospitals taking care of injured Ukrainian soldiers.

"We're concerned about the fighters that are in Poland that are being wounded so my priority now is getting medical supplies to those hospitals," Winters said. 

There is more money to come upon arrival. He's spent the past week setting up ways to be transferred money to buy supplies there. He said he is also getting medical supplies shipped to him in Poland from East Tennessee. 

As he makes his way to do that, many are praying for his safety here at home.

Credit: Mary Klingler
Larry Winters next to his wife Kathy, surrounded by friends, family and loved ones at TYS Airport in Alcoa before his departure Monday

"These are my friends. They're my friends," Winters said looking around at all the people seeing him off. 

Winters specializes in firearms training but says he's willing to do anything he can to help. He plans to return back to East Tennessee in one month. 

Find a full list of options for helping the people of Ukraine on WBIR's website here.

You can also support Winters' efforts through Vets for Ukrainian Humanitarian Aide. The group said any donations will go directly to help with the cost of medical supplies. Contact Corporation Secretary Kathy Winters at Kawinters@bellsouth.net or the Marine Corps League. 

Marine Corps League members will also be in front of local grocery stores collecting donations.

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