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'They have fought like tigers': Brewer headed to Ukraine to assess humanitarian needs

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Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon will leave Nebraska on Friday for an extended trip into and across battle-torn Ukraine, where he will assess conditions and humanitarian needs.

The trip replaces an earlier plan to travel to Poland, where he had intended to stay and assist in logistical and humanitarian activities for refugees who fled after the Russian military invaded Ukraine and initiated relentless bombardment of its cities, turning many of them into rubble. 

State Sen. Tom Brewer mug constitutional carry

Brewer

Brewer will fly to Krakow, Poland, where he will meet with Noah Philson, a young Nebraskan who is already there providing humanitarian assistance, and they will travel to Lviv in western Ukraine.

Then, it's on to the capital of Kyiv with a driver and interpreter who will take Brewer through the country, with the final destination of Odessa, a deep-water port on the Black Sea.

That journey would transport them into war-torn country in the Donbas, where Russian forces have virtually destroyed the port city of Mariupol.

Brewer's mission is to assess humanitarian needs and "figure out a way to break up the logjam" of equipment and resources that is currently "stacked along runways in Poland."

"Ukrainians are busy fighting the war," he said, "and can't bring it in."

Brewer said "it's hard to judge how the war is going a world away," and this will help him assess challenges and needs.

A retired U.S. Army colonel, Brewer is familiar with war zones; he was severely wounded in combat with the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2003 and wounded again in 2011 on his sixth combat tour.

While he is in Kyiv, he said, he hopes to talk with Ukrainian soldiers about "what they're experiencing and what works and what doesn't work."

After recently talking with military officials at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Brewer said he was cautioned to make sure "not to message in real time" while he is there, delaying any reports he may make a week or so when his location will have changed.

"The Russians are monitoring messaging constantly," he said.

His approach in Ukraine will be to "see and learn," Brewer said, while gathering information.

"The Ukrainians have shown us they really do want to remain free," he said. "They have fought like tigers."

Brewer said his intent is to stay several months, but he would return to Lincoln for a special session of the Legislature if Gov. Pete Ricketts decides to call one in the wake of an anticipated U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning its previous abortion rights ruling in Roe v. Wade.

But if he's called back to Lincoln in a month or so, he'll "probably go back" to Ukraine.

His decision to go into Ukraine in the midst of war was prompted by a strong sense of duty and urgency, Brewer said.

In the end, he said, he simply decided that "you gotta go do it."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSdon

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