A retired U.S. Marine from the Chicago-area has been working in Ukraine since the start of the war to deliver medical supplies and evacuate vulnerable people, as brutal conflict grinds toward 100 days.
William McNulty, 45, founded Operation White Stork, named after the national bird of Ukraine, as a humanitarian organization designed to address two major needs in the hardest hit areas of Ukraine.
“I just thought this was an unjust invasion,” McNulty said. “I wanted to be part of the solution and wanted to help.”
The graduate of Loyola Academy in Wilmette has some highly specialized skills to be able to assist in a war zone. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps splitting time between infantry and intelligence units. When he retired from active duty, he founded Team Rubicon, a humanitarian organization that assists in disaster relief across the United States around the globe.
When the Russian troops attacked Ukraine, McNulty made a few calls to his network of military veterans, operations managers, and logistics specialists. Within days, he was loading up people in vans, busses and trains to bring them to safety.
“They’re just looking for somewhere to rest, for people they don’t know to trust,” McNulty said.
So far Operation White Stork has helped evacuate more than 23,000 people. Once they arrive across the border in Poland, the evacuees are given a free 30-night stay in an AirBNB.
Operation White Stork has also delivered more than 16,000 Individual First Aid Kits, of IFAKs, to soldiers engaged in combat. The IFAKs are especially outfitted with tourniquets and blood clotting bandages, to provide lifesaving care for those who are gravely wounded.
“They are actively in the fight to defend their land against these Russian invaders,” McNulty said. “It became clear they did not have the proper type of medical kit to control hemorrhages and massive bleeding if they were to get hit by the Russians.”
The kits from Operation White Stork have been credited by Ukranian Military leaders with saving at least two soldiers’ lives, so far.
McNulty and his team are trying to raise $1 million to continue their all-volunteer efforts.
“The messed-up thing about this war is it’s a war run on donations,” he said. “Ukrainians don’t have the financial wherewithal to provide all these types of kits and equipment, that’s why you see the United States military providing artillery and javelin missiles, but there’s only so much that nation-states can do.”
He is urging the American public to continue to focus on the War, even as other major stories like mass shootings, inflation, and political issues compete for the nation’s attention.
“The need people to keep Ukraine front-and-center,” McNulty said. “I understand that here in the United States we have inflation, high gas prices. I know people are being hit in the pocketbook and I know it’s causing a lot of us to focus on the problems here at home, and I get that. I believe that this is a ‘never again’ moment. If ‘never again’ truly means anything, if it’s not just a platitude, we need to help Ukraine stop Russia from destroying their culture and wiping out their people. Because I agree with President Biden, this is genocide.”