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
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