A group of Ukrainian veterans of the Veterans Dozen Foundation in Ukraine led by Major General Volodymyr Havrylov (ret) visited the United States to join veterans of the Allied Forces Foundation at the Appalachian Trail hiking in early October. The Veterans Dozen Foundation is a non-profit that uses sports and competition to rehabilitate war veterans suffering physical and psychological injuries.
Before the hike, the team visited Washington to meet with members of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation’s Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN) and the Congressional Ukraine Caucus. The groups discussed challenges facing the Ukrainian veteran community as well as possible ways of supporting Ukrainian soldiers returning from Russia’s war against Ukraine.
Breakfast at the Washington Golf & Country Club with FOUN
Veteran Yurii Rudenko was able to present his documentary book WAR.RU to the American audience and give two signed copies to Ukrainian Caucus Co-Chairs Congressman Mike Quigley and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur. The book illustrates in great detail the first year of Russia’s war against Ukraine, with important facts about the movement of Russian troops, Russian government lies, and documented evidence of civilian casualties.
Upon the veterans’ group return to Ukraine, participants shared their impressions during a webinar organized by the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation. The event was opened by H.E. Oksana Markarova, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the USA, who thanked veterans and active military for their service and contribution to ensuring peace and security.
Participants of the Appalachian Trail Hike, October 2, 2021
As Stuart Taylor, Allied Forces Foundation (AFF) President and CEO,noted on the webinar, it was great to see American and Ukrainian veterans walking side by side, shoulder to shoulder on the Appalachian hike, helping each other and sharing about their transition from combat to normal life. Such experiences help these veterans build stronger human connections. AFF plans to organize trips of American veterans to Ukraine next year to participate in military marathons and other sports events with Ukrainian partners and friends.
Ukrainian veterans Dmytro Utkin, Stanislav Kulyk, and Yuri Rudenko emphasized the role of brotherhood in the recovery process and the importance of joint events for improving communication skills that are crucial in their civil life. They noted that involvement of veterans in sports activities and events helps to break the isolation in which veterans often find themselves after returning home. Inspired by examples of the United States’ and the United Kingdom’s initiatives, Ukraine has established the Carpathian Yomp and several Military Runs in Ukrainian cities to support partnerships and communication among veterans.
The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation will continue to support and give specific attention to Ukrainian veterans’ matters. The FOUN National Security Task Force has recently created a Subcommittee on Veterans that will be working on a number of initiatives discussed during President Zelenskyy's trip to the US in September. The said subcommittee will be chaired by Debra Cagan, former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, and will include Ambassador William Taylor and former U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Acting General Counsel/Principal Deputy General Counsel Bill Hudson.