News: US soldiers share celebration with Ukrainian partners
Story by Sgt. Angela Parady
Hohenfels HOHENFELS, Germany - Positioned between the American and Ukrainian flags, soldiers stand at attention as the Ukrainian national anthem plays. The Ukrainian colonel speaks to the group before her.
This is not the first time we are celebrating our Independence Day in theater and we are glad to celebrate it with you, said Ukrainian Lt. Col. Valerie Parada. Be sure to take every opportunity to make friends with those from other countries. Be steadfast. I wish you all speedy promotions, new victories and good fortune.
Ukrainian and American soldiers came together to celebrate the 21st anniversary of independence for the country of Ukraine, Aug. 24. The soldiers have been training together at the mock Camp Novo Selo, in the Hohenfels Joint Multinational Readiness Center, Germany.
Soldiers from the 1st of the 118th Combined Arms Battalion are preparing to deploy with South Carolina’s 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade as part of the NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. American soldiers will be working with military from 30 other NATO nations, to include Ukraine, Armenia and Slovenia.
The joint celebration was one event that Command Sgt. Maj. Darryl J. Cheatham saw as an appropriate avenue to strengthen relationships between the multinational soldiers.
“Today is the Ukrainian Independence Day,” said Cheatham, Command Sgt. Maj. for the 118th. “We got wind of this information a couple of days ago, and we were able to put something together to show our solidarity with the Ukrainian soldiers. I wanted to celebrate the Fourth of July right now just being here with them celebrating their day. I could see the Ukrainians were motivated, and it motivated me.”
First Lt. Taras Nahorny, a 10-year veteran of the Ukrainian Army has been working alongside 118th soldiers as part of the pre-deployment training. The 27-year-old from Rivne, Ukraine, said his young country is rich with history. The strong bonds of partnership and community are strong within his country, he said.
“She is 21,” said Nahorny. “She is becoming a grown up finally. Our country is very young, but she has a long history.”
When Ukrainians began to seek formal sovereignty, they did so as a community. On Jan. 1, 1990, they formed a human chain between two major cities in support of the independence movement. Citizens came out into the streets and highways to form a live chain, holding hands in a display of unity.
As the Soviet Union was starting to show signs of deterioration, the Ukrainians banded together and began to hold democratic elections.
“I was a real little boy at the time,” said Nahorny. “But over 91 percent of the population voted for independence from Russia. On the 24th of August, we finally got our independence. When the Soviet Union broke up, 16 new countries appeared on the map. But we were one of the first.”
Nahorny said that he was very honored and humbled by the fact that the Americans wanted to participate in their celebration.
“We are very grateful to our American friends for tonight, it is a great honor for us,” he said. “To help each other, work together, this is a great experience. Everything is perfect.”
Working in a multinational community can be complicated. Each country brings with them their language, culture, training and nationalism. But Cheatham is not worried about how things will unfold.
“Soldiers are soldiers the world over,” said the Greer, S.C., native. “We all share the same hardships. We already have that common bond. I don’t see there being any issue because soldiers are soldiers, simply put.”
“Their soldiers are just like my soldiers,” said Cheatham. “They laugh, they joke. They get serious when they need to be serious; ultimately they are military just like us. And they have a job to do, just like us. They are learning our training methods and we are learning some of theirs. Ultimately we are getting it done.”
During the next year, the soldiers will celebrate many holidays, birthdays and anniversaries together. These shared experiences help cement the bond that will help create friendships and ultimately the trust necessary to maintain a united front for the people of Kosovo.