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Can local veterans volunteer to fight in Ukraine?

March 15, 2022

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — New York State has the sixth largest population of veterans in the country.

You may be wondering: could any of these veterans potentially get involved in Ukraine?

Attorney and veteran Chad Lennon with Tully Rinckey PLLC says it’s not uncommon for veterans to want to volunteer in outside conflicts.

“There were veterans that went to Syria to fight in conflict there in the Syrian civil war so this does happen,” he said.

Today, he says there is interest throughout the state from veterans, who want to join the fight and help out in Ukraine. But some ramifications make it very tricky, starting with a law in our own constitution.

The Emoluments Clause prohibits anyone from getting compensation, in these situations.

“This includes, gifts, travel expenses, title, a salary for any military personnel officer,” said Lennon. “If you’re retired, you could lose your retirement pay from the military.”

Lennon says you could also lose citizenship, depending on your situation.

Congressman Joe Morelle says they’re going over individual inquiries now with the Department of Defense – but there is some hesitancy.

“American soldiers in Ukraine can be misinterpreted by Russian government as an engagement by the United States directly in Ukraine, and that could escalate again, so we’re being very careful.”

He says it’s unlikely they’ll be sending ground troops to Ukraine anytime soon; they want to resolve the tensions without further loss of life, and focus on donations.

“Even as we supply military hardware, we do it indirectly, and that’s so we avoid a direct confrontation,” said Morelle.

Lennon says if a veteran is interested in fighting, he or she should get a lawyer, and go over possible legal hurdles.

Or contribute in other ways, with donations.

Congressman Morelle says they’ve donated 13.6 billion dollars in additional aid for Ukraine. Much of that is military hardware for defense forces.

An official with the Ukraine embassy says about 4,000 Americans have expressed interest in joining the Ukrainian fight. It is unknown how many are veterans, and how many are actually there or on their way.

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