The invasion and occupation by Russia of sections of eastern Ukraine has resulted in tens of thousands deaths, millions displaced, and general terror shadowing daily life throughout the nation. At the beginning of this war we were asked to help those who were displaced and wounded.
Through the incredible response from many we have been able to ship 118 containers with dry food mixes, personal hygiene supplies, seasonal clothing (especially winter clothing), and household goods. These supplies were freely distributed by our in-country team with a registration proving the validity of our efforts. The supplies did reach those targeted. The population impact of our effort has exceeded one-half a million receiving expendable commodities (food, clothing, shoes, etc). The population impact of our efforts focused on the long-term permanency (supplying hospitals, clinics, schools and housing for the displaced) is incalculable.
Recently I travelled to Odesa, Ukraine to conduct on-site inspections. Throughout the time of Russia’s invasion and occupation we have been overwhelmed with requests to help the displaced, orphaned, wounded, and homeless. An overwhelming response came from churches and communities as their compassion responded to the great needs communicated. Our efforts were spread to as many needy as possible. Some of those were the widowed and orphaned by military service. I was given special permission to visit three different military units whose fallen troops had families helped by our efforts in some way.
My first visit was to Ukraine’s 28th Mechanized Brigade. The majority of this brigade was deployed back to the eastern frontlines the day before I arrived. So I was greeted by a skeleton crew of those commanders left and newly arriving recruits. The 28th has a great history preceding WW2. While a number of their actions were familiar the one that stands out is the fact this was the last Brigade that evacuated the “Ilovaisk Kettle” in August 2014. I suspect that most reading this has no idea what the reference to the “Ilovaisk Kettle” means. This is an emotionally charged reference similar to “The Alamo” or “the Lusitania.”
It was at Ilovaisk (August 2014) that the Separatists were defeated and Russia was about to be embarrassed. So Russia rushed battalions into Ukraine to save the Separatists from defeat. The Russians surrounded Ukraine’s forces in the town of Ilovaisk. Pleas went out to western Europe and the USA for supplies and political pressure on Russia. The Western European nations and the Obama Administration tried to pacify Russia and managed to get a “green safety corridor” for Ukraine’s troops to leave the “kettle.” Supposedly the forces of Ukraine could leave without harm. But Russian tanks had been given enough time to become embedded in the hillsides and artillery batteries trained on the green corridor. Ukraine objected saying it would be a trap but Obama’s Administration said there was no other choice. When the withdrawal began the Russians opened fire. It was a massacre. If you want to read more here is a reference and the footnotes provide links to additional articles.
I am reminded of this verse addressing those complicit in allowing evil to go unchecked when fellowmen were being destroyed: “‘Curse Meroz,’” said the angel of the Lord, “‘Utterly curse its inhabitants; Because they did not come to the help of the Lord, To the help of the Lord against the warriors’” (Judges 5:23).
Ilovaisk was an unnecessary tragedy. It was a capitulation to a ruthless evil. The forces of Ukraine had no chance. The Separatists and Russia wanted to smash the troops and thus conquer the fighting spirit of a nation that dared oppose Russian terrorism.
Click here to read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Ilovaisk
The 28th were the last Ukrainian troops to leave. They tried to pick up all of the dead and wounded as they left but they could not. In talking with those who did manage to run the horrifying gauntlet you will see tears whelm up in the eyes and heads bow in shame because they could not bring everyone with them.
It was an honor to sit and drink tea with these men.
After a few introductory meetings I was told that we had another meeting scheduled and it would be in five minutes (everything in Ukraine happens in “five minutes”—in “five minutes”…taxi’s come; women are finished getting ready; politicians will meet with you; etc…).
After the five minutes were up a soldier came and told the Commander that things were ready. We walked toward the parade field and I saw that a number of troops had assumed the presentation formation. Considering that the majority of the brigade had been deployed there was a good number with three deep in formation the length of the parade field (about 300 yards long). The formation was called to attention and then the Commandant addressed us. He thanked the troops for their service and then introduced me as being involved in a number of ways to assist the efforts. He then said that he had the honor of presenting a medal to me for my involvement and coordinating the relief to the civilians, the IDPs and the families of those wounded and killed.
The medal is “For serving God and Ukraine.” My good friend Igor Nevolin is the consignee of our operations in Odesa. He had these words to say to me about this award. “John! During the whole time of our collaboration, I have been telling you repeatedly that I am forwarding the humanitarian aid to help and assist those who need it the most, and especially for those military men, who lost their land and home, to families of the fallen soldiers who lost their sons and fathers…Last year my work was noted by one of the commanders of Ukrainian military unit, and I was granted by a medal. It was a surprise and a big honor for me. During the ceremony, I took the liberty to tell that I was not the only one man behind those deeds. ‘There is a man who did a hundred, a thousand times more than I did for the people of Ukraine.’ And it did not pass unnoticed! You, John have been awarded the ‘Medal for Serving God and Ukraine.’ This is medal given to those who are recognized for their soldierly duty but also, and more important, for their spiritual dependence upon God’s work! And with all my heart I congratulate You! I was assigned duty to go to Arkansas and give you this presentation but you jumped ahead of plans and arrived in Odesa. So today you receive it! Thank you and your wonderful team very much!”
This was an impressive presentation from the regiment who stayed to the very end at Ilovaisk. Knowing their history and bravery makes the presentation even more humbling. But this medal is presented, as Igor noted, to ALL involved in these actions. Without the compassion of the community and the diligent work of the volunteers the 118 containers would have never been coordinated and shipped!
The next stop was at a military compound which housed a missile regiment (The A1032). This regiment had just returned from maneuvers in Kherson where they participated in firing exercises. They proudly announced that three of their commanders had the highest scores in targeting, tracking, and accuracy. I was taken on a tour of the facility and met a number of those in the regiment.
The third stop was at a compound where a regiment of the Navy of Ukraine was moved after Russia seized Crimea. This was the regiment that refused to surrender to the Russian troops until it was finally surrendered by Kyiv. Here is a link to a Reuters press release from March 2014: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-crisis-crimea-base-idUSBREA2N09J20140324
What was NEVER released by the western news media was the apathetic response to Russian aggression. As early as November 2013 the Navy defenses of Ukraine in Crimea had been told to withdraw their defensive missiles and ammunition for defense had been diverted. Once again the real facts show that months prior to the Sochi Olympics Russia had a plan to invade Ukraine. And the western powers knew this and thought they could placate Putin…they were being led from waaaay behind in the back!
It was at this third stop that I was presented with a diploma expressing gratitude for involvement in efforts associated with the war and especially in regard to the aid given to those displaced by Russia’s evil invasion and occupation.
The Award Certificate reads…
Dear John Louis Kachelman Jr.
Commanders and staff of Military Unit Number A1032 would love to express their sincere gratitude to you for the assistance that you provide for the development of Ukrainian Navy. Your help is invaluable input that directs us to fulfill our goals and encourages our Marines to display greater valor in this very difficult time that our country is facing right now.
You symbolize the support of the international community and the United States of America which once again assures us that human values are victorious and good for the world and that the relations between our two countries are strong and fruitful.
Commander of Military Unit A1032
The fourth stop of the day was at the Regional South Military Hospital. We have shipped a number of items into this hospital which serves not only military but civilians. I was met by the Commander who turned me over to three of the Chief Doctors who took me on a tour. One of the Doctors said that the surgical hospital had been in bad decay and very inadequate but because of hard work and items from our containers the surgical hospital had advanced to the best.
I was taken into an OR that had surgical lights we shipped. I looked at the lights and recognized them as having been picked up by David Lawyer and BR Barden. They were heavy. These had been donated to us by Unity Hospital in Searcy and thanks to Gary Roberts we were made aware and picked them up. Underneath the surgical light was an operating table that we had also shipped. There were surgical tools, instruments, and numerous other items that we had shipped. I was taken to another OR and saw again the many things we had been able to collect and ship. The recovery rooms were furnished with the hospital beds with which we fight to unload and load, bedside tables, over-the-bed tables, chairs and countless other items.
And so continues the visit to Odesa. Tomorrow I am to visit a location where the Internally Displaced People are now living. This is the group of disabled people that were evacuated from Donetsk. They were living in an old resort complex but had to leave. Now they are living in an abandoned juvenile compound.
Pray for our efforts as we continue this trip!
John L. Kachelman, Jr.