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Colorado man volunteers near Ukrainian front lines

Carson Lantz views the war with Russia as good versus evil and said he wants to help the cause of freedom.

BOULDER, Colo. — At home in Boulder, Carson Lantz is barely old enough to drink legally. But along bombed-out roads in Ukraine, he's on the front lines of delivering humanitarian aid to civilians suffering in Russia's invasion.

The 21-year-old traveled to Lviv, Ukraine in March after the government asked for help from foreigners. He initially intended to fight, but with no prior military experience, joined humanitarian organizations instead, he said. 

"I felt like I wanted to do something that was important and would have a lasting impact," he said over Zoom from Kharkiv, Ukraine. "I felt like this was the most important thing I could be doing with my life currently."

Lantz works to evacuate civilians from hard-hit towns, and deliver medical supplies and food to the people who remain. He recently returned from Izium, Ukraine delivering food for U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Food Program. 

"It's like a disaster and humanitarian catastrophe over there," he said. 

On some trips, he can hear the fighting. 

"We were within artillery range of the front line," he said. "We constantly heard the sound of Ukrainian artillery going off -- particularly because they'd set up just outside of the city." 

The work is dangerous, Lantz acknowledged. He believes it's worth it. 

"If there's any reason I'm going to die young, this is probably one of the better ones," he said. 

He said his team at Hero Society — Ukraine keeps a close eye on the safety situation in cities they travel to. He's currently based out of Kharkiv, where he said people have tried to resume life as normal, even with the perennial threat of nightly air raids. 

"I personally had doubts that Ukraine could win against such a large country, such a big army," he said. 

But he believes in the endurance and bravery of the Ukrainian army. 

"No matter how big of a bully Russia is, people can stand up against that and they can fight back," he said.

Lantz said he plans to remain in Ukraine for "the foreseeable future," working to help the people there. 

"I am helping people less fortunate than me. I understand this definitely is not a study abroad trip or a vacation. It is a war. It’s a very serious one," he said. "Frankly Ukraine needs all the help it can get right now."

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