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Volunteers drive ambulances to Baltimore to be shipped to Ukraine

Randi B. Hagi
Art Beltrone, of Keswick, is one of the volunteers driving a local, refurbished ambulance to Baltimore on March 8. From there, it will be shipped to Germany and transported to Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, 22 local ambulances will begin a journey to the frontlines of the war in Ukraine. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.

[sound of ambulance starting up, running]

Randi B. Hagi
Ambulances fill the parking lot of Route 11 Automotive Repair, where owner Brandon Peavy worked with Bierman to refurbish the vehicles and prepare them for transport.

At Route 11 Automotive Repair in Harrisonburg on Tuesday afternoon, mechanics were inspecting a fleet of ambulances one by one, and fueling them up for the next morning's voyage – caravanning to the port of Baltimore.

Art Beltrone, a military artifact appraiser from Keswick, is one of the volunteer drivers.

ART BELTRONE: I said, "is there any chance I can help? Maybe drive an ambulance?" And he said, "yeah! You can drive an ambulance. We've got to do 22 of them!"

The delivery is part of a program called the Volunteer Ambulance Corp, which was founded by Brock Bierman, of Lyndhurst – a former administrator with USAID. From Baltimore, the ambulances will be shipped to Germany, arriving some time in April.

BROCK BIERMAN: They'll be trucked from … Germany all the way to Ukraine. And from that point, they'll be delivered to the headquarters of the Territorial Defense Forces.

Randi B. Hagi
Brock Bierman is the founder of the Volunteer Ambulance Corp, and the former assistant administrator for Europe and Eurasia for USAID.

That's essentially Ukraine's equivalent of the National Guard, headquartered in Kyiv.

BIERMAN: And then they will then take those ambulances and divide them to the units that need them the most on the front lines.

Through a contact in Rotary International, Bierman met the former governor of Luhansk, George Tuka, who then introduced him to a deputy commander for the Territorial Defense Forces. He's made several visits to Ukraine himself, to hand off the ambulances. He showed reporters one video that appeared to be taken from within a car driving through Kyiv – in which you can see an apartment building with a gaping hole where it had been hit by artillery.

BIERMAN [in the video]: Just a residential neighborhood. Nothing nearby that's anything related to the military.

This shipment will mark the 112th ambulance Bierman has transported to Ukraine.

Randi B. Hagi first joined the WMRA team in 2019 as a freelance reporter. Her writing and photography have been featured in The Harrisonburg Citizen, where she previously served as the assistant editor; as well as The Mennonite; Mennonite World Review; and Eastern Mennonite University's Crossroads magazine.