He served six years in the French Foreign Legion, but he has never seen the type of conflict he’ll be heading into in Ukraine.
A man originally from Kelowna is part of a group of experienced soldiers from around the world, who are about to depart for the war zone. To protect his identity, Castanet is referring to the man as C.S. He and his colleagues will be embedded with a unit of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces. “They’re not super-well trained or anything because they’re just reservists, but most of us are very experienced combat veterans and whatnot," C.S. said. “So, we’re essentially forming the core of the unit and helping these people, giving them knowledge and assisting them on the field in battle. Giving them a better chance, essentially, by showing them how to do things better.”
According to C.S., the mission is not just to participate in the defence of Ukraine, but also to help evacuate trapped civilians. “There are civilians, who if they didn’t evacuate when the Russians showed up, they can’t now because the Russians won’t let them," he said.
"We’re going to try our best to get those people out of the conflict zone if we can.”
The soldier’s mother, Bonnie Penner, recently founded The Bravery Foundation to finance the operation and provide humanitarian aid. C.S. says most of those in his group have been able to scrape together enough money to pay for their own plane tickets and cover bills while they are away from home, but they are still short of some potentially life-saving equipment like thermal and night vision optics.
“We don’t really have the budget for that just because all of our budget is consumed by just getting over there as it stands. But with the fundraising she’s done it’s helping, definitely, make those key little purchases give back to us that much more of an edge — an ability to hopefully come back alive.”
Penner is thankful for the businesses that have stepped up, including Lakeside Pharmacy and Dick’s Pharmacy, which offered discounts on medical supplies, including hemostatic gauze. She said Kelowna Stands with Ukraine has also donated some body armour for the members of his group.
“A lot of the other guys don’t have a lot of stuff, some of them," she said. "Just wanting to make sure that we send everything that we can.”
Despite his experience with the French Foreign Legion in other conflict zones, C.S. acknowledged the situation in Ukraine is new to him. “When I was with the French Foreign Legion I deployed twice to Africa and once to South America. Those are conflict zones, there was shooting going on — but nothing on this scale," he said.
“The scale of war in Ukraine right now is something that hasn’t really been seen since the Second World War, maybe the Korean War. Two major world powers going at each other with tanks and aircraft.”
C.S. admitted it's a bit daunting, but he’s trying not to dwell on it too much as he prepares to depart for the war zone.
Cindy White - Castanet News - Mar 31, 2022 / 4:00 am
DONATE TO THE BRAVERY FOUNDATION TODAY!
A Kelowna man is heading off to Ukraine to aid in humanitarian efforts, according to his family.
Watch Global News Video - Click Here
Bonnie Penner, his mother, said he served six years in the military and he’s feeling a calling to go help in the war-torn country. The man’s identity is being withheld for safety reasons. “The reasons my son has told me that he needs to go is that his training has prepared him for such a time as this. He has vision and that vision is for freedom for all. These are the things motivating him,” said Bonnie Penner.
“As a mother, it was very difficult. He came home about two weeks ago to express that he wanted to go. So, I went into activism mode. The evening after grieving the potential loss of my son, I opened up a foundation.”
Penner created ‘The Bravery Foundation’, inspired by her son. A non-profit organization that supports democratic freedoms, and will be raising funds for Ukraine. The Bravery Foundation’s first goal is to raise $15,000 dollars for body armor that Penner’s son will take with him when he travels to Ukraine.
The foundation is working closely with the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Kelowna. The church has also created a non-profit that is raising funds for Ukraine. “Under the church, we’ve opened up ‘We Help Ukraine,’ a non-profit. Everyone here, our beautiful volunteers, are making cabbage rolls. We are creating on April 9, 2022, a food bazaar, an Eastern food fundraiser,” said Maria Melnyk, a Ukrainian Catholic Church member. “We are going to be selling perogies, cabbage rolls and lots of goodies, everything we make off the bazaar, 100 per cent of it is going to Ukraine.”
One of the volunteers making the cabbage rolls has quite the connection to Ukraine.
Tamara Stokoz fled Kyiv about a week ago, she is staying with family in Kelowna. “She’s really touched by what the Kelowna community and residents are doing here, and it’s impressed her a lot. She didn’t expect the work that’s been done, and she appreciates every person that starts any initiative here,” said Uliana Kotsur, Stokoz’s impromptu translator.
By Darrian Matassa-Fung Global News
Posted March 26, 2022 5:15 pm
DONATE TO THE BRAVERY FOUNDATION TODAY!
Two weeks ago my ex-military son told me he felt “called” to go on a humanitarian mission to Ukraine alongside several dozen veteran friends. My first born said his military training had prepared him "for such a time as this." He shared he believed freedom is a right everyone’s entitled to and was why he supported Ukraine in their fight for freedom.
Grief & Tears
Later that night as I sat in my living room grieving, I struggled with thoughts of what might happen to my son in a war torn country. Alternately, I had feelings of pride and awe at my son’s willingness to sacrifice for people he had no emotional or social connection with.
After much struggle and with tears in my eyes, I determined my son needed my support to achieve his Vision of “Freedom for ALL!” I also came face to face with the Truth that he didn’t need me to convince him to stay away from this dangerous situation. What would serve him best was for his mamma to support his free and autonomous choice to serve those who shared his Vision.
So how did I come to the determination that my son needed my strength and not my emotion? Why was I empowered to open, in less than a week, ‘The Bravery Foundation,’ a not for profit society dedicated to supporting democratic freedom?
The Value of Struggle
Years ago while homeschooling my four boys I learned the value of struggle and its connection with trust. As one of our projects, we decided to hatch baby chicks in a homemade incubator in our living room (ironically the same room I was now grieving the potential loss of my son in). All the books and internet articles we read warned us to NOT help the chicks as they struggled to get out of their shell. They told us they needed to fight to hatch and that if they didn’t, they would die. What they neglected to tell us was the reason for this Truth.
Each day we carefully turned the eggs, kept the humidity and temperature just right. We candled them and watched as the little chicks formed inside their shells. Finally hatching day arrived and we observed with great anticipation as they pipped out. After hours of anxiously waiting, we couldn’t resist peeling away some of their shells. They seemed so helpless as they fought to get free.
Sadly, we learned the hard way that the yolk sack, which later becomes the chick’s intestines, remains outside their body prior to hatching. The purpose of the yolk sack is to nourish the little one through their struggle and is the last bit of energy required to successfully hatch. We tried wrapping small cloths and tape around our prematurely hatched chicks. We did this to help keep their intestines from flopping around and in the hope it would provide enough artificial struggle that their intestines would go into their bodies. Mournfully, we watched as they died one by one. This experience was awful, especially after we discovered our lack of trust was what led us to do things we thought were helpful but in the end were not. Thankfully we learned from our mistake, and later successfully hatched not only little chicks but ducklings too!
Humility & Acceptance
Even though past experiences have taught me that struggle is key to unlocking the doorway of trust, it wasn’t easy to accept that my first born was choosing to go to war. The fact my son may never return and that I was not in control of the outcome pushed me to the brink. This was the biggest struggle I’ve ever had in my 53 years of life and it humbled me very quickly.
So what was the process that led me to accept my son’s choice? To put it simply, struggle caused me to trust. Trust what you might ask? Trust Truth and any process Truth walked me through. Acceptance did not come easily, but in the end I chose, of my own free will, to humbly reconcile my beliefs with Truth’s. “Truth never aligns with our desires; Truth always requires we make a conscious choice to align our will with it.” One point of clarity. Acceptance does not condone the what or how of the struggle and it doesn’t absolve the perpetrator of wrong doing, it just means you’ve come to terms with what is.
My willingness to humbly accept the Truth that my son was choosing to go to a war zone created two new realities for me that earlier seemed impossible. First it generated a peace within my soul that even though his safe return was not guaranteed, it was the right thing to do BECAUSE HE CHOSE IT. Secondly, it birthed in me Vision for The Bravery Foundation. If anyone’s ever had Vision before they can attest to the fact that Vision produces a passion so strong that it drives one forward in a very determined manner. So, in less than a week’s time, I had not only opened a non-profit society and bank account, I created a website and began an awareness campaign for the foundation and started raising funds.
My son also struggled with his decision to stand with those fighting for freedom. It was only once he’d been given the opportunity to wrestle alone with Truth that he was able to freely choose to serve the Ukrainian nation. By the time he shared with me his intentions, his determination was tangibly evident and deep seeded, for he too now had Vision, passion and drive to fight for “Freedom for ALL!”
It has been my experience that when Truth is sought after all else, it’s revealed and Vision created. Vision at its core is revealed Truth that’s personal to you. Vision becomes tangible after a decision is made to humbly accept and trust Truth because free will is the required element to authenticate it. This action is what commission’s passion, which in turn fuels drive. Without these components it's impossible to explore new pathways or innovative creative options. Musicians complete this process every time they bring into existence a new melody and just like new music is endless, so too is one’s freedom to access Truth and Vision!
Work it Forward and Backwards
The Truth is, no matter how you look at it, struggle produces trust and so much more.
Struggle + Free Choice + Humility = Trust + Awareness & Acceptance of Truth = Vision -> Passion -> Drive
You cannot have drive without passion. You cannot have passion without Vision. You cannot have Vision without awareness & acceptance of Truth. You cannot become aware of and accept Truth without trust. You cannot trust without being humble. You cannot be humble unless you freely choose to be. You cannot choose unless there is a choice to make, which in and of itself denotes struggle. In other words, choice naturally has imbedded inside it, at least two pathways to choose from, and it's always a struggle to chose one over the other. When broken down it's simple to understand, but simple does not make it easy to do. The key is to remember, one needs to embrace struggle because it provides the opportunity for free choice to be engaged and IS WHY FREEDOM MUST BE PROTECTED AT ALL COST!!
Vision Produces the Unstoppable
I strongly believe if one was to analyze why Ukrainians, by the millions, are staying and fighting for their homeland, I suspect the same core Truths of struggle, free choice and trust would be found. Ukrainians are UNSTOPPABLE, not because the war is unjustified, which it is, but because they’re choosing to humbly exercise their free will to embrace struggle. Their Vision of "Freedom for All" is deeply embedded and their passion so strong that it’s clear they have been, and will continue to be driven to do whatever it takes to WIN! Ukrainian’s are my new hero’s!
“Struggle causes one to look beyond the possible, so the impossible becomes possible!”
We are all in this TOGETHER!
Today, I drove to the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Kelowna to donate cash to some Ukrainian women I had recently connected with. These ladies had organized a bake sale to pay for medical supplies they're going to send to Ukraine. I thought it would be a quick stop and that I could also buy some authentic perogies and borscht after. To my great surprise, the lineup snaked through the parking lot, spilling over onto the adjacent road and continuing down the cross street. I thought to myself, well isn't it wonderful to see my community coming together to aid these amazing women in their mission. So many smiling faces, both young and old, there to support this much needed undertaking.
Sweet Ukrainian Mamma
I picked up my phone and called one of the women from the group and asked her if she could come out to collect my donation because I didn't have time to stand in line. I realized now I would have to explain to my youngest son why I didn't come home with some delicious home cooked Ukrainain food (like I had promised), but oh well such is life. The sweet Ukrainian mamma answered my call and came out right away.
The back story here is that two days earlier I connected with a Ukrainian realtor friend of mine asking if he knew of any local Ukrainian organizations I could donate to. He gave me the phone number of Reverend Pavlo, the pastor at the Kelowna Catholic Ukrainian Church. I left a voicemail message and Father Pavlo called me back the next day. He then gave me Lilia's phone number and told me she was collecting donations for the purchase and transport of medical supplies to Ukraine. So I called her and explained my son is ex-military and has volunteered to go to Ukraine along with 30 other veterans on a humanitarian mission (under the direction of the Ukrainian government). She immediately asked if my boy would take over some supplies when he goes. So I did as she requested and asked my son and he agreed and said he would also speak to some of his buddies to see if they could take some bags too.
What I love most about the last few days is the proof that we have a fantastic community in Kelowna which is willing to connect, share and help when called upon! Life is filled with different people and various situation we must all learn to navigate. I may lose my son as he goes to help those who've already lost mothers, daughters and fathers but I'm proud of him as I am of Ukrainians because they're ALL willing to stand up and fight for FREEDOM and DEMOCRACY.
Although my mother's heart has been broken since learning last week of my son's plans to go to Ukraine, my human heart was filled with joy again today when I saw all these people lining up to help! It humbled me and reminded of a prayer I pray every morning. "Help me remain humble so Truth is revealed, acceptance achieved and expectations adjusted, no matter the outcome."
Awareness of Truth
As I write this blog tonight, I'm reminded of a lesson life taught me back in 2016, as I sat by my sister's hospital bed while she recovered from the removal of one of her lungs due to cancer. And that is this: "We have no power or control over when we're brought into this world or when we leave it, so why do we struggle to have power and control while here?"
We all struggle with something, and no matter how big or small it is. It's my belief that there's always an answer if one is willing to become aware of Truth and humbly accept it. "Becoming aware of and humbly accepting Truth generates a natural resolve to trust. Focusing on a problem or an expected outcome limits materialization of new realities, whereas restricting expectations and trusting Truth opens doorways to endless possibilities."
Now that I know there's only one thing I can control in life, that being to humble myself, where does this leave me? It leaves me resolved to trust Truth, for it's the sole place one can find peace in a world filled with heartache and pain.
Trust or Expectation
I've learned that understanding the difference between trust and expectations is critical. Trust at its core is an unconditional expectation or more simply put, an unrestricted belief in the integrity of someone or something. A great example of trust is ones willingness to jump on a trampoline. You trust that the trampoline has been engineered to handle the weight and tension bouncing creates, so you climb on and jump.
An expectation, on the other hand, can be labeled as a premeditated resentment or an assumption that disappoints. When the outcome your expectation creates is different than you imagined, a resentment is generated. To be clear it’s not unreasonable to have an expectation, it’s what you do with your expectation once it's not been met. If you remain humble and fluid when an expectation falters, you will continue to be at peace because you trust in the Truth that there is always an answer. This is why I pray every morning, "Help me remain humble, so Truth is revealed, acceptance achieved, expectations adjusted, no matter the outcome."
In these uncertain times, I encourage everyone to pray this prayer, so you too can have the peace that passes all understanding.
We are all in this TOGETHER!