By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
US sends aid for Georgian wounded and refugees
Georgia Russia US M 5480211
A U.S. military cargo plane transporting humanitarian aid is unloaded at the airport in Tbilisi, Georgia, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2008. The cargo plane, loaded with supplies, landed in Georgia on Wednesday, and U.S. President Bush said Russia must ensure that "all lines of communication and transport, including seaports, roads and airports," remain open to let deliveries and civilians through.
    TBILISI, Georgia — Some of the first tangible American support for Georgia was visible Thursday in a storeroom at a grim Tbilisi hospital: a dozen crates of medical equipment marked with Stars-and-Stripes stickers and the words ‘‘USA: Operation Provide Hope.’’
    But at the capital’s airport, a Georgian army captain watching a huge U.S. Air Force cargo jet unload more syringes, bandages and tents commented that while U.S. aid was good, American troops would be better.
    The first U.S. aid reaching hospitals and refugee camps came from eight truckloads of emergency gear that had been stored in Georgia before fighting with Russia erupted last week.
    More was being flown in at Tbilisi International Airport. The big, gray Air Force C-17 disgorged 18 pallets of medical gear, tents, cots, sleeping bags and other supplies for Georgians wounded or displaced by the fighting.
    Commanded by Maj. Ryan Vander Veen, of Grand Rapids, Mich., the C-17 followed another plane with a similar payload that landed Wednesday evening. In total, the aircraft brought emergency gear worth $1.28 million, according to USAID, the international aid arm of the U.S. government.
    The second American jet landed Thursday after a smaller Lithuanian cargo plane and a Red Cross flight. Countries across the world have sent aid or have pledged money to help Georgia recover from the violence.
    ‘‘As the United States, our role in the world is to help out others that can’t do anything for themselves, not that they’re unable, but maybe at that time incapable,’’ said Vander Veen, who said his crew normally flies supply missions into Iraq and Afghanistan.
    Standing on the tarmac outside Vander Veen’s jet, a burly Georgian captain said he had served alongside American troops for three years in Iraq as part of Georgia’s contingent there.
    He said he appreciated the aid, but added that he and many other Georgians had expected more forceful support in his country’s bloody quarrel with Russia.
    ‘‘U.S. aid is good. But U.S. troops would be better,’’ he said as a forklift unloaded cargo. He gave his name on as George, saying military regulations barred him from giving interviews.
    The shipments being delivered by air will begin going to hospitals and refugee camps Friday, said Guram Gurashvili of the U.S. organization Counterpart International, which has been put in charge of distributing some of the American aid.
    At Tbilisi’s Hospital Number 1, a cluster of crumbling buildings with dark hallways and spartan rooms, the emergency supplies are badly needed, said Dr. Gocha Ingorokva, who heads the neurosurgery ward. The hospital is usually undersupplied but has been further tested by the 100 wounded soldiers and civilians being treated, he said.
    ‘‘We need suture material, disposable sterile material, and surgical instruments,’’ he said, listing items included in the U.S. aid packages stacked beside him in a storeroom. The crates also included surgical gowns, syringes, bedpans and other supplies.
    In a nearby ward, Alexei Tuayev lay in bed with his left arm bandaged, grimacing occasionally to reveal several gold teeth. A 67-year-old farmer from Tamarasheni village in South Ossetia, Tuayev said he stayed behind after fighting erupted in the breakaway territory to take care of his cattle and was wounded by shrapnel from a Russian airstrike Saturday.
    The sterile equipment in the aid packages will help ensure Tuayev’s wound does not become infected, Ingorokva said.
    But Tuayev said the only American help he wanted was in making peace and getting him back to his village. ‘‘I need your help in returning to my home, not here,’’ he said.

Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter