August 21, 2023, 16:55

Caring for veterans is the basis of the country’s defense capability: how the US-Ukraine Veterans Bridge will work

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the number of active military personnel in Ukraine has grown to 1.2 million. This figure increases every day.

The US-Ukraine Veterans Bridge coalition of leading US veterans’ organizations and human rights advocates has been formed to support Ukraine’s veteran community. In partnership with the Ukrainian Veterans Fund, the Bridge connects American and Ukrainian veterans, leaders, and experts from veterans’ health care, benefits administration, education, employment, reintegration, and family/guardianship issues.

This was discussed during the presentation of the organization as part of the country’s main discussion platform BrainHub at the Media Center Ukraine – Ukrinform. 

William Attig, an American veteran, member of the US-Ukraine Veterans Bridge, emphasized the importance of uniting veterans and creating new programs.

“We have to be ready to fight for ourselves as veterans. We can’t solve all the issues, but we can assist and bring about changes to the system. We see the moment when Ukraine most needs support. We can start an organization to bring our experience to bear, to implement as many programs as Ukraine needs so that Ukrainian veterans are heard,” he emphasized.

The American veteran also expressed hope that the changes and new programs will be introduced in a way that veterans can live a full life after returning to civilian life.

At the same time, George Chewning, an American veteran, Executive Director of the US-Ukraine Veterans Bridge, emphasized that it is necessary to ensure a decent life for Ukrainian veterans who have sacrificed the most important thing to protect the country.

“We will share cultural experience and practical experiences. We know a lot about the veteran’s experience, but we are here to learn and study even more about it and to bring that knowledge to communities here in the United States. I also want to express my sincere gratitude to the Ukrainian Veterans Foundation, and all the Ukrainian veterans that we have worked with and continue our further work. You are great partners, and we will always support you,” he explained.

In turn, Kateryna Pryimak, a Ukrainian veteran and deputy head of the Women’s Veterans Movement NGO, is convinced that such cooperation and communication can be beneficial for the all-Ukrainian veteran movement. However, she noted that since Ukraine and the United States are under completely different circumstances and conditions, not all experiences will be relevant to borrow to the country.

However, she emphasized that “taking care of veterans is the basis of the country’s defense capability.”

“It’s nice to see the American experience regarding the information work also contributing to defense capability. The way we treat them, the culture of gratitude, and the benefits provided by the state are what attract people to the army in general. Military personnel can rest assured the state won’t abandon the military and that former servicemen will have the opportunity to enter the university, get a great education, and build a career outside the military. Now we all know why we are paying such a high price, but we need to rationalize state veteran benefits and services,” she concluded.

BrainHub is the country’s main discussion platform created by the Media Center Ukraine – Ukrinform. It brings together experts from the state and civil society sectors. BrainHub hosts intellectual discussions around the issues of the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine. It’s the birthplace of the best ideas that will become the foundation for the road map of Ukraine’s reconstruction in all sectors: economy, infrastructure, education, agriculture, security, digital, etc.

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