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7's Hero: Marine veteran from North Idaho spends weeks in Ukraine helping refugees

Jared Malone says he felt a calling to go to Ukraine to help the refugees. He says he just couldn't sit back and watch what was happening, so he got on a plane.

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — Idaho Marine veteran Jared Malone has spent the last several weeks in Ukraine helping people and families who are there, and those still trying to get out. 

He works as a licensed master social worker at Heritage Health in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. He says he felt a calling to go help, after watching the devastation of the war on the news. 

"I felt helpless just like all of our friends, just like all of us in our communities," Malone said. "Obviously, part of it was seeing the greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II. As I sat there and looked at signs that were pointing me to going over here, I just couldn't ignore it anymore."  

Malone is a proud third-generation Marine veteran. 

"I joined the Marines in my senior year of high school following the attacks of 9/11. I went on my first deployment in 2004 to Fallujah, Iraq, and then I went on another deployment in 2005 to the Syrian border," Malone said.

Just like so many of the fine men and women he served with in the middle east during those years, he came home with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He moved to Boise to go back to school.

"At the time getting out of the Marines, I didn't really understand what [PTSD] was. We were never taught to process that back then. I had a lot of anger and frustration at the time. I lived in Boise for two years where I attended Boise State, and because of my lack of being able to transition to the civilian world, I returned to Iraq as a private contractor and I did that for three years," Malone said. "I was having some issues that were affecting my life, so when I finally came back to the US in 2012 I went to get help."

He got that help, and years later, he became a social worker and counselor himself, helping others who are dealing with trauma. 

When the war in Ukraine began, he scoured social media looking for an organization to volunteer with. He reached out to Victory Christian Church, and told the pastor there he wanted to help raise money to help the Ukrainian people. 

"I had this idea if I came to Ukraine, I could document everything, videotape, and send those videos back to the population in our community so they could see a familiar face on the ground, but also see where every single dollar is going."

It took some convincing, but that Ukrainian pastor finally agreed to let the eager American come to help. Malone cleared it with his wife and young twin daughters, then and booked a flight to Ukraine.

When he landed he says he hit the ground running.  

"When I arrived in Ukraine, we immediately went out and started looking at buildings. We wanted to secure a large building to house refugees, that they can also hold church services in, and we could run a kitchen out of it and feed refugees. We want to house them long term, short term, or even refugees that are just in transit." 

His videos from Ukraine are powerful and heartbreaking. He is very transparent about the destruction there, and the need. 

"You hear air raid alarms probably once a day," Malone said. "When I was in Kyiv it was pretty constant, artillery gong in and out, there were missile and rocket attacks and there were bombs dropping. There have been three or four situations where I've felt pretty helpless, and I wasn't able to help people the way we wanted to due to Russian tactics," said Malone. "It's been a rollercoaster of emotions, there have been times when I am down pretty bad. But, the positives far outweigh the negatives, it's just important for us to remind ourselves that we cannot get down because people are relying on us."

Malone also taught courses on helping victims of trauma, he hopes the Ukrainians he worked with can help each other through this devastating time with the right tools. 

People here in Idaho, and around the U.S. are seeing his posts, and following his journey. That is inspiring donations, some of them have been sizable. He says they have pledges totaling close to $100,000. 

"We need Americans to open up their hearts and please donate money," Malone said. "If more people just get involved and take action, even if it's just advocating in your neighborhoods, just spreading the word and paying attention, then we can continue helping these people. I mean, we have to be the voice for these people when they can't be heard, we need to be the strength when they are weak. Just please, don't forget what's happening here. We have to pay attention we have to take action. If we don't take action, who will?"

Malone made it home to North Idaho just in time for Easter Sunday with his family. He says he plans to keep working with the team at Victory Christian Church in Ukraine, from here in Idaho. He says there is so much more that can be done. One of the things he wants to do is gather toys for the thousands of children in the shelters in Poland. He also has other goals.

"I want to start researching getting body armor and helmets to those who need them. There's a huge shortage right now," Malone told KTVB. "These people need protection."

You can donate to the cause, and see snippets of his powerful video diary on the church's Facebook page, and on Instagram.

Watch more '7's Hero'

See all of the heartwarming segments in our YouTube playlist here:

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