U.S. military members and their families with strong ties to Ukraine said they have been navigating a maelstrom of emotions in the last week since the Russian invasion.
Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the attack against the much-smaller former Soviet nation on Feb. 24, 2022. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, hundreds of casualties have been confirmed and the future of Ukraine as a sovereign state hangs in the balance.
Army wife Desirae Clark and her husband, a retired sergeant first class, have spent many months in Ukraine doing volunteer work over the past decade. They even adopted their daughter ― now a senior airman stationed in South Korea with the Air Force ― from there in 2012.
“Some of the most precious but most vulnerable people I know in Ukraine are there, and I am so fearful for them,” said Clark. “I am fearful for sweet children I met that are older teens, [who are] eligible for military service. My heart is broken.”
Clark spent the past few days studying photos of places she once visited, now destroyed or damaged. She wonders about friends directly in the path of Russian forces — if they are in imminent danger and able to find a way out.
“Some of my favorite people in the world do not speak English, and my Russian is minimal,” Clark admitted. “But we have served and loved on orphans together, and we have bonds that are unique and enduring.”
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Those bonds of friendship and admiration also run deep for Air Force wife Kelly Molloy. From 2005 to 2008, Molloy and her husband, Air Force Col. James Molloy, lived in Kyiv for his job as the American defense attaché to Ukraine. Since then, the Molloys have returned nine or 10 times to visit friends and conduct English camps with dependents of the Ukrainian military.
Kelly Molloy said she feels gobsmacked by Putin’s actions, thinking he would “only try to make a land bridge to Crimea.”
“I was starting to plan camp for this summer over the Christmas holidays but soon called folks and said I was going to wait, as I felt like things were escalating,” she said. “The last time I was in Ukraine was two years ago. I was looking forward to this summer and seeing many of our friends again.”
Army Staff Sgt. Jeremy Bryant, meanwhile, just wants to make it to Ukraine to bring home two new sons. He and his wife, already experienced adoptive parents, committed to adopting the boys in October 2021. They intended to travel for pickup this summer. Now, Bryant fears not only that the adoptions may never happen, but for the safety of his hoped-for sons.
“As a human, I am insulted that [Putin] would put his desires as more important than the desire or interest of another person, much less another country,” said Bryant. “As a service member, I am willing to follow the orders of the officers appointed over me. [And] as an adopting father, I am enraged that the acts of this man [are] keeping so many children (mine included) from finding a forever home.”
Bryant, Clark and Molloy all have one simple dream for the nation they have grown to love so much: peace.
“My hope and prayers for the Ukrainians are for them to fight hard, show their strength,” Molloy said. “They are strong and determined.”
One boy Bryant hopes to adopt has already been evacuated, the buildings surrounding his orphanage engulfed in flames. They haven’t heard about the second.
“As a father, I just want these loved ones safe and to bring them home,” Bryant wrote. “It hurts, how bad I long for their safety and to hear from them.”Read comments