Press Release: American Veterans for Ukraine Launches in Washington, D.C. and New York

Paul Rieckhoff, Bonnie Carroll, Matt Gallagher, Adrian Bonenberger, Nolan Peterson Announce Groundbreaking New Effort to Organize Veterans In Support Of Ukraine

Admiral James Stavridis, Governor Wes Moore, General David Petraeus, Sebastian Junger, Col Alex Vindman, Craig Renaud, Hope for Ukraine–all issue statements of support

WASHINGTON, DC, May 23, 2024: Today, in advance of Memorial Day in the United States at a historic event at Ukraine House in Washington, D.C., five leading voices from the American veterans community announced the formation of a groundbreaking new veterans organization focused on supporting victory in Ukraine. The new group, American Veterans for Ukraine (AVU), can now be found online at www.AmericanVeteransForUkraine.org

AVU is an American, non-partisan, non-profit organization with a clear mission: connecting, uniting and empowering American veterans to support victory for Ukraine. 

AVU’s two lines of effort to ensure that mission is accomplished are:

1. Driving public support for Ukraine.

2. Protecting continued US government funding for the fight.
The American veterans community already overwhelmingly supports Ukraine. A poll of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) members revealed that Post-9/11 veterans hold strong support for Ukraine. And an overwhelming majority of almost 80% of veterans surveyed support Ukraine or are neutral.

Speakers included AVU Founders, Paul Rieckhoff, Bonnie Carroll, Nolan Peterson and Adrian Bonenberger, Hope for Ukraine CEO, Yuriy Boyechko, Co-Founder of TAPS Ukraine and reserve Lieutenant in the Ukrainian military, Yuliya Dmytrova, as well as Katherine Semenyuk, a Ukrainian American military chaplain who first day of the Russian invasion, gave birth to her fifth child in a bunker, embodying the spirit of survival and determination. A video statement was also presented from Admiral James Stavridis, USN (Ret) and 16th Supreme Allied Commander of NATO.

AVU founder Paul Rieckhoff addresses conference attendees at the America Veterans for Ukraine Inaugural Conference at Ukraine House in Washington, D.C. on May 23, 2024

AVU Co-Founder Bonnie Carroll of TAPS International addresses conference attendees at the America Veterans for Ukraine Inaugural Conference at Ukraine House in Washington, D.C. on May 23, 2024

The American veterans community already overwhelmingly supports Ukraine. A poll of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) members revealed that Post-9/11 veterans hold strong support for Ukraine. And an overwhelming majority of almost 80% of veterans surveyed support Ukraine or are neutral.

AVU will amplify this and additional information that shows how deeply and broadly American veterans care about Ukraine. We will also share the powerful stories of American veterans who are serving in the Ukrainian military, in charitable groups impacting Ukraine, and in a variety of other innovative and inspiring ways. AVU will also help American veterans and their supporters find more ways to support Ukraine’s war effort.

AVU’s five Co-Founders are known worldwide for their commitment to America, to the veterans community, and to issues of national security, global security, and peace. They represent a deep and diverse scope of backgrounds and are combining efforts to meet this critical moment in American and global history.

Adrian Bonenberger – Author, Reporter and Editor for Military.com and others, Founding Member of Yale University Veterans Association, US Army Veteran. Adrians’s wife, Iryna Solomko, is a correspondent for Voice of America’s Ukrainian Service. 

After helping his wife’s elderly parents escape Ukraine after the invasion, Adrian has made multiple trips to Ukraine with other American veterans to train and support Ukrainian forces on the ground.

Bonnie Carroll –  Founder and President of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), TAPS Ukraine, Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient. A retired USAFR Major and also the surviving spouse of an Army Officer, Bonnie and TAPS International have been working with Ukraine since 2014 when the US State Department asked TAPS to assist Ukraine in developing a program to support the families of the military deceased from conflict in the Donbas region of Ukraine that had started in 2014.

Since the start of the Russian war in Ukraine in February 2022, TAPS International and its sister organization TAPS Ukraine have been on the ground providing support to Ukrainian soldiers, internally displaced people, families who’ve lost a loved one and all those suffering in the conflict.

TAPS International quickly began collecting funds and supplies to support TAPS Ukraine. Thanks to the support of individual donors and donations from foundations and corporations like Telos, the Hartwell Foundation, the Good Feet Store, the Rosenthal Family Foundation, Global Mission Support Services, and Spirit of America, TAPS International has purchased supplies of nutritious and sustainable food, high quality boots, safety equipment, and TWO state of the art ambulances fully stocked with emergency medical equipment.

In October, 2023, TAPS opened the Ukraine Resilience Center in Dnipro. ​​The facility offers grief and trauma counseling and emotional support, provides resilience-building workshops and training programs, creates a safe space for families and individuals to share their stories and heal together, and is a hub for humanitarian aid and volunteer efforts supporting critical needs. This Center for TAPS Ukraine is more than just a new facility; it’s a beacon of hope and a promise that no one has to walk the journey of loss alone.

Bonnie is regularly in Ukraine, and in celebration of TAPS 30th Anniversary this Memorial Day week, is hosting a number of annual TAPS events in Washington, D.C., including The National Military Survivor Seminar and The Good Grief Camp–a program for children who have lost a loved one who served in the Armed Forces. Leaders from TAPS Ukraine will be present throughout. 

Matt Gallagher – US Army Veteran and the author of the novels Daybreak and Youngblood, a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. His work has appeared in Esquire, ESPN, The New York Times, The Paris Review and Wired, among other places. He’s also the author of the Iraq war memoir Kaboom and co-editor of, and contributor to, the short fiction collection Fire & Forget: Short Stories from the Long War.

In January 2017, Senator Elizabeth Warren read Matt’s Boston Globe op-ed “Trump Rejects the Muslims Who Helped Us” on the U.S. Senate Floor, and his work in March 2022 helping train a civilian defense force in Lviv, Ukraine, was featured on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360. Among other media, he’s appeared on CBS News Sunday Morning and NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show, and he was interviewed at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan by General David H. Petraeus. Matt is the recipient of a Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Fellowship, a Sewanee Writers’ Conference Fellowship, and was recently selected as the 2022 Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum Writer-in-Residence.

A graduate of Wake Forest and Columbia, Matt is a 2021-23 fellow with the Tulsa Artist Fellowship, based in Green Country, Oklahoma. He lives with his wife and sons in Tulsa. Matt was among the first American veterans to travel to Ukraine to personally train a Ukrainian civilian defense force.

Nolan Peterson – Nolan Peterson is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center. He is an independent defense consultant, award-winning journalist, war correspondent, and author who has lived in Ukraine since 2014.

As an international correspondent, Peterson has covered conflicts around the world. Apart from his work in Ukraine, he has been embedded with US armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and with the Kurdish Peshmerga during the battle for Mosul in Iraq. He deployed on the USS George H.W. Bush off the coast of Syria to report on the coalition air war against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. Peterson also retraced the path of Tibetan refugees on a solo hike across the Himalayas from Nepal to China and spent several months documenting the stories of Tibetan freedom fighters on assignment in India and Nepal.

Peterson is a former US Air Force special operations pilot and a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He graduated from the US Air Force Academy in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in French. As a US Air Force Gerhart fellow, he earned a master’s degree in French from Middlebury College after two years of study at the Sorbonne in Paris, France. After leaving the US Air Force in 2011, Peterson completed a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, where he was a McCormick Foundation fellow.

Peterson’s work has been published by numerous news outlets. He has written for outlets including the Wall Street Journal, CNN, Fox News, BBC, Newsweek, the Heritage Foundation, and Coffee or Die Magazine. He is the author of Why Soldiers Miss War: The Journey Home and several fiction collections.

Paul Rieckhoff – Founder and Vice Chairman of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), President of Righteous Media, Host of Independent Americans, National Security and Political Analyst for MSNBC and NewsNation, US Army Veteran, Ashoka Fellow. 

One of the most dynamic media leaders in America, Rieckhoff is a nationally-recognized independent authority on politics, war, the military, and veterans affairs. He’s an experienced media personality, author, political strategist, media critic, renowned social entrepreneur, Political Science professor, moderator and host. And a proud husband and father of two awesome (and exhausting) little boys. A gritty former high school football coach, investment banker, Army Infantry Officer and 9/11 First Responder, Rieckhoff founded Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) in 2004 and has been a respected fixture on the American media and political scene ever since. 

He’s a regular on MSNBC, CNN, NewsNation, Fox News and NPR and has appeared on hundreds of television and radio shows ranging from Real Time with Bill Maher to Meet The Press to PBS Newshour to Fox’s The Kelly File. He’s testified before Congress, battled with Presidents, and led groundbreaking bi-partisan efforts to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs, pass the New GI Bill, fight veterans suicide, and repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, while forging creative partnerships with Lady Gaga, NASCAR and Netflix. Rieckhoff has also produced four films (Warrior Champions, Reserved to Fight, Jerebek, and When I Came Home) and acted in Green Zone starring Matt Damon. Rieckhoff has trained thousands of veteran leaders to be “changemakers” and inspired millions worldwide to get involved, take action and make positive change. 

Rieckhoff was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine, is an Ashoka Fellow and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. His honors include: GQ’s “50 Most Powerful People in D.C.”, Esquire’s “America’s Best and Brightest,” Rolling Stone’s “The Quiet Ones: 12 Leaders Who Get Things Done”, Penthouse’s Annual “Badass List” and The Hill’s “Top Lobbyists”.

Paul has been an outspoken and longtime supporter of Ukraine in the American and global media.

AVU’S INAUGURAL AMERICAN VETERANS FOR UKRAINE CONFERENCE AT UKRAINE HOUSE IN WASHINGTON, DC. WAS THE STRONGEST GATHERING OF AMERICAN VETERANS IN SUPPORT OF UKRAINE IN HISTORY.

The event included powerful voices from across the veterans community, leaders from Ukraine, and inspiring speakers all focused on the mission. Lunch was provided by Ruta Ukrainian restaurant.

This event took place in advance of American Memorial Day Weekend in Washington, DC—the largest annual gathering of American veterans in America. AVU leaders will also attend and support traditional Memorial Day ceremonies including the Presidential reception at the White House, the wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington Cemetery, TAPS’ Good Grief Camp for the children of fallen servicemembers and more.

Memorial Day week also provides an opportunity to underscore the connection between America’s interests and the war in Ukraine, presents a time to share the stories of the 40 brave American veterans killed fighting in Ukraine, and allows AVU to connect with media already focused on Memorial Day and looking for new stories.

All AVU Co-Founders and speakers were available for media interviews onsite and remain available now. 

AVU WILL LEAD VIP LEADERS TRIPS TO UKRAINE:

Beginning in June, Led by AVU Founder Nolan Peterson, AVU will execute a regular schedule of high-profile AVU support visits to Ukraine led by AVU Founders, AVU Members and Advisors, Medal of Honor Recipients, retired General and Admirals, celebrity veterans, and other powerful allies. These trips are designed to capture attention in America and show support in Ukraine.

AVU leaders will visit key cities, allies, the front lines, deliver resources and messages of support, and look to meet with President Zelenskyy, Mayor Klitschko, US Ambassador to Ukraine Brink, and other senior Ukrainian and US officials.

The AVU leaders will then return to the US to lead a media event at the US Capitol Visitors Center, walk the halls of Congress, testify before committees, meet with legislators, and engage in a media tour to encourage support for Ukraine. AVU will repeat these trips every 2 to 3 months until Ukraine achieves victory.

AVU WILL ALSO BE A VOICE A KEY EVENTS THROUGHOUT 2024:

AVU Founders, Advisors and Members will be present at key events in America, Ukraine and worldwide. This will include Memorial Day activities in Washington and nationwide in May, the NATO Summit in July in Washington, EU events in Europe, July 4th commemoration events across America and Ukraine, The Republican and Democratic National Conventions in July and August, Ukrainian Independence Day events in August, September 11th commemorations, Veterans Day activities everywhere in November and more.

A STATEMENT FROM AVU’S FOUNDERS:

“We want to send a clear message to the people of Ukraine. America’s veterans have your back. We stand with you. And we will do all that we can to ensure ultimate victory in your heroic war of defense against the illegal and immoral Russian aggression.

The war in Ukraine is the fight of our time. Ukraine’s fight is America’s fight. But support for Ukraine in America is under attack–from outside of America and from within–and now is the most perilous time for Ukraine yet. 

Like a political candidate running for re-election, Ukraine must be publicly supported and defended to ensure victory. Ukraine needs a strong, trusted and nimble advocacy machine
that can hit hard, fast and often. AVU has been created to answer that call. 

Especially now, as extreme politicians and others have successfully slowed Ukraine funding and chipped away at public support. This has been compounded by assaults on Ukraine by pro-Putin sympathizers and supporters in the media, in Congress and across America. The war in Israel and Gaza has only further distracted and encouraged disengagement in Ukraine. Many are arguing that America will have to choose one or the other. Or, the border crisis or Ukraine. Or, or, or. It’s a false choice that needs to be pierced. 

Enemies of Ukraine must be challenged on every TV network, in every Congressional hearing, and on every social media platform. 

Ukraine needs a powerful, coordinated, non-partisan, well-resourced advocacy machine led by trusted voices to drive communications, public support and funding. American veterans are uniquely positioned to be that political cavalry. 

We American veterans have a strong understanding, connection, interest and capacity
to support Ukraine. We have experience moving public opinion and getting things done in Washington. We stand ready to guide, communicate and unleash that power.

American veterans will send a powerful and lasting message to America, Ukraine and the world: it’s one team, one fight. 

God bless America. And Slava Ukrainii!”

Adrian Bonenberger, Bonnie Carroll, Matt Gallagher, Nolan Peterson, Paul Rieckhoff

American Veterans for Ukraine Founders

ADDITIONAL STATEMENTS OF SUPPORT FOR AVU:

“I am proud to support American Veterans for Ukraine because nothing could be more central to the security of the world than our continued support for Ukraine and their ultimate triumph over aggression. This important effort reminds us the sacrifices necessary to keep people free and not under the boots of despots. It’s what the American military has been about since 1775.”
-Ken Burns
Filmmaker, AVU Advisor

“Growing up in Europe, my father had to flee fascism three times before making it to the United States – where he knew that evil could never follow. Europe had not faced a fascist threat in nearly a century until Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022. Not only are the basic rights and dignity of Ukrainians at stake in this war, but the future of a free and democratic Europe might be as well.

A true love of freedom means helping others to attain it as well. If we do not help Ukraine defend herself, we fail the most basic test of freedom there is: Promoting it for all peoples, everywhere. I fully support American Veterans for Ukraine because they are serious about defending our national interests and – more importantly – our national values. They are an inspiration for us all.”

Sebastian Junger

Bestselling Author, AVU Advisor

“I am a huge fan of Paul Rieckhoff…as well as this new effort, American Veterans for Ukraine. What a terrific and timely idea. I can’t think of a more important geopolitical cause than that of defending Ukraine against an unwarranted illegal human rights violation-filled invasion of that country by the dictator Vladimir Putin.

It is imperative, in my view, that the voices of veterans collectively have come together to create the American Veterans for Ukraine movement. It is imperative that all of our voices as veterans rise up because we know the consequences. We have seen war. We have seen unjust war. We have seen the kind of activities that could lead to a complete breakdown in the global order.

Putin must be stopped. Unfortunately, not all Americans understand the enormous implications of what is occurring in that corner of Europe. Fortunately, both our European allies and recently the U.S. Congress have stepped up to provide billions of dollars in much needed military aid. No one other than our veteran community has a deeper understanding of what is at stake about the technical aspects of how Ukraine needs to fight. And therefore, the twin missions of American Veterans for Ukraine–which include both supporting these efforts for Ukraine but also raising awareness, sponsoring trips to Ukraine, helping in every capacity here in the United States to make sure the electorate understands the stakes–all of that is absolutely critical. So for all who are attending events and conducting various activities and engaging with American veterans for Ukraine, I salute you. I look forward to being personally involved in this, alongside my friend and fellow veteran Paul Rieckhoff and the leaders that are engaged in this extraordinary project.”

Admiral James Stavridis

USN (Ret) and 16th Supreme Allied Commander of NATO

“​​As an Army Veteran, I couldn’t be more excited to support the work of the American Veterans for Ukraine. With veterans like Paul Rieckhoff leading the charge I know they will work tirelessly to strengthen our national interests, and the values so many of us have fought for.”

Governor Wes Moore

Governor of Maryland, US Army Combat Veteran

“Hope For Ukraine is supporting American Veterans For Ukraine in their mission to drive public support for Ukraine and protect the continued U. S. government for the fight. As war with Russia enters its third year now, like never before it’s important to galvanize the USA’s support for Ukraine as they fight for their freedom and right to exist as a free and democratic country. We believe that AVU will play a key role advocating for continued support of Ukraine by the U.S. government in Washington D.C.”

Yuriy Boyechko

Hope for Ukraine, Founder and CEO

“As a veteran who strongly supports Ukraine and its forces fighting for their very independence against a brutal, unprovoked invasion by Russia, I fully support the American Veterans for Ukraine, an urgent and hugely important initiative.” 

General David Petraeus

US Army (Ret.), former Commander of the Surge in Iraq, US Central Command, and Coalition/US Forces in Afghanistan, and former Director of the CIA

“When I decided to dedicate my life to serving our country in the Army, it was because I understood the importance of standing up for freedom and democracy wherever they are threatened. The war in Ukraine is not just a conflict on the other side of the world; it is a test of our values and our commitment to those who fight for their right to determine their own future.

I support American Veterans for Ukraine because they are champions of these values. They understand that Ukraine’s fight is our fight, and that by supporting Ukraine, we are defending the principles that define us as a nation. The work of AVU to drive public support for Ukraine is crucial, and I am proud to stand with them in this important mission. Together, we can make a difference. Slava Ukraini!”

US Army Lt. Col. (Ret.) Alexander Vindman

Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Pritzker Military Fellow at the Lawfare Institute, Executive board member for the Renew Democracy Initiative, Senior Advisor for VoteVets, New York Times Bestselling Author

“When my brother and filmmaking partner Brent Renaud was murdered by Russian soldiers on March 13, 2022 in Ukraine, AVU founders Paul Rieckhoff and Bonnie Carroll were there for our family, just as they have been for so many families who have lost loved ones during times of war.  Their mission with American Veterans for Ukraine couldn’t be more timely and important and our family fully supports them.  My brother Brent Renaud went to Ukraine as a filmmaker and non-combatant. He simply wanted to document the impact of the war on innocent Ukrainians who were forced to flee their homes, but he was ruthlessly gunned down to silence the truth about an unjust war.  His killing adds to the very long list of atrocities committed since Russia invaded Ukraine.  Our family stands with American Veterans for Ukraine because we believe they can help win peace for all Ukrainians.”

Craig Renaud

Peabody Award Winning Filmmaker, Renaud Brothers Films, Founder, Brent Renaud Foundation, AVU Advisor

“Ukraine stood with America during our time of greatest need after 9/11. For years, Ukrainian soldiers deployed alongside American soldiers during our wars in Iraq & Afghanistan. The veterans of AVU remember this well. This is one of the reasons it is right that we stand with Ukraine now, during her time of greatest need.”

William McNulty

Head Of Mission, White Stork, USMC Veteran, 

“At the Renew Democracy Initiative, we understand that ensuring Ukrainian victory and Russian defeat are critical US interests. No one understands this imperative better than American veterans, who have put their lives on the line to protect our rights and advance our security. That’s why American Veterans for Ukraine is such a timely and important undertaking. We’re excited to see how AVU reshapes the playing field and are confident they will be an asset to the pro-Ukraine cause.

Uriel Epshtein

CEO, Renew Democracy Initiative

“I support American Veterans For Ukraine because I served honorably in a country that defends democracies. I dedicated my life to the values of this country and honored our forefathers who risked their lives in World War II to spread those values.  Ukraine is vital to America. As a US Navy veteran and Ukrainian Army Legionnaire I stood up for the little guy against tyranny and do so now.”

Malcolm Nance

Executive Director, Terrorist Asymmetrics Project, US Navy Intelligence Veteran, Ukrainian Army Legionnaire, NY Times Bestselling Author

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Please visit the AVU website for more messages of support as they are received, to learn more about our mission, and to join the fight. 

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*The new AVU Website was generously designed and built pro-bono by the brilliant folks at Movadex. The AVU team would like to thank them for their support and encourage folks to check them out.

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American Veterans for Ukraine’s mission is to connect, unite and empower American veterans in support of Ukraine’s victory. Learn more at www.AmericanVeteransForUkraine.org.

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AVU Co-Founder Paul Rieckhoff addresses conference attendees at the America Veterans for Ukraine Inaugural Conference at Ukraine House in Washington, D.C. on May 23, 2024

Katherine Semenyuk, a former Chaplain and tactical medic for TAPS Ukraine, speaks about her experience giving birth in a bomb shelter as Russia invaded Ukraine in February, 2022

AVU Co-Founder Nolan Peterson addresses conference attendees at the America Veterans for Ukraine Inaugural Conference at Ukraine House in Washington, D.C. on May 23, 2024

Yuliya Dmytrova, co-founder of TAPS Ukraine, addresses conference attendees at the America Veterans for Ukraine Inaugural Conference at Ukraine House in Washington, D.C. on May 23, 2024

The America Veterans for Ukraine Founders from left to right, Adrian Bonenberger, Nolan Peterson, Bonnie Carroll and Paul Rieckhoff. Additional founder, not pictured Matt Gallagher.

Ukrainian Deputy Chief of Mission Denys Sienik and AVU Co-Founder Bonnie Carroll discuss the urgent need for assistance for the citizens of Ukraine.

Yuriy Boyechko of Hope for Ukraine watches a remote address to the audience by former
Supreme Allied Commander of NATO James Stavridis, along with AVU cofounders Adrian Bonenberger and Nolan Peterson.

AVU Co-Founder Adrian Bonenberger addresses conference attendees at the America Veterans for Ukraine Inaugural Conference at Ukraine House in Washington, D.C. on May 23, 2024

Please visit the AVU website for more messages of support as they are received, to learn more about our mission, and to join the fight. 

*The new AVU Website was generously designed and built pro-bono by the brilliant folks at Movadex. The AVU team would like to thank them for their support and encourage folks to check them out.

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American Veterans for Ukraine’s mission is to connect, unite and empower American veterans in support of Ukraine’s victory. Learn more at
www.AmericanVeteransForUkraine.org.