Colorado veteran spends 6 months training Ukrainian army
DENVER (KDVR) — As the violence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine rages on, a Colorado veteran has just returned to the United States after spending months in the war-torn country.
Daniel Taylor served six years in the United States Navy and over the past six months has volunteered his time, knowledge and training skills to assist Ukrainian citizens and members of the Ukrainian military. The veteran is back in Colorado and opened up about his trip Tuesday afternoon with FOX31.
In the face of heartbreak, gunshots, bombings
Taylor scrolled through her phone, passing images and videos from her time in Ukraine, each with a special meaning.
“We had 200 kilograms of noodles, macaroni to be precise, which we were carrying with emergency supplies,” Taylor said.
Taylor has been back on American soil for 72 hours, but for six months the veteran has been volunteering in the middle of a war zone.
“I just felt like it was the right thing to do at the time,” Taylor said. “It was horrible to see.”
He has witnessed firsthand the harsh realities and bloodshed of the Russian invasion of Ukraine that has now fueled since February. Taylor shared a touching moment that he says changed his life while visiting a cemetery in Ukraine.
“There was a woman,” Taylor recalled. “She was hysterical. She was next to a fresh grave and she kept saying, “That’s my son, that’s my son.” And then she would change and tell us about how he was raised and such a good student. Then she said, “Now he’s here,” and it broke our hearts so much.
Pulling on his heart strings, Taylor also recalled a time when he was caught in gunfire and bombings.
“As soon as the enemy picked up Anglo-American voices on the radio, we were bombarded all day,” Taylor said. “Being bombed is one of the worst experiences I have personally had.”
Coloradan in Ukraine shares his military knowledge
Although he is no longer in service, service is in him. For months, Taylor has been breaking bread, literally and figuratively, with the Ukrainians. He showed FOX31 photos of himself eating and cooking with local citizens. However, beyond that, Taylor helped in any way he could, including transporting food and supplies and teaching medical and weapons training.
“Some of the guys had never shot a gun in their life,” Taylor said. “They had never held a gun before and were part of the Ukrainian army. Giving them the opportunity, in an organized and safe way, to go to a shooting range and learn how to shoot their gun and reload, that’s what we did.
Taylor said among the bad guys, there’s so much light among the people. He said that although they are deeply saddened by what is happening, they are incredibly tough and resilient people. The Navy veteran said they were just people trying to survive horrors or war, who treated him and his buddies like family.
Although Taylor has just returned to Colorado, he said he has built lifelong friendships with people who struggle to live each day.
“They need us to remember them,” Taylor told FOX31. “I feel bad for not being there with them right now.”
So what’s next for Taylor? He shares that he’s taking a little mental break in the US, but plans to return to Ukraine “again and again and again, until it’s over, to be with his Ukrainian friends and now his brothers. “.
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