425th ABS volunteers aid Ukrainian refugees in Romania

  • Published
  • By Monica Ruggley
  • 425th Air Base Squadron

On February 24, the world woke up to the news that Russia invaded Ukraine. Like many around the world, several members of the 425th Air Base Squadron and I felt called to take action and sought ways to help the Ukrainian refugees fleeing into surrounding countries. Over the next several weeks, we formulated a plan and a small team of five jumped into action to make a difference.

“Some individuals were missing family members and pets while knowing that everything they’ve worked their entire lives for has been lost or displaced,” said Tech Sgt. Devin Jimenez, a volunteer from the 425th ABS, describing one of the reasons he decided to help.

We were loaded with suitcases of supplies, donated by members of the U.S. armed forces in Izmir, when we left for Bucharest, Romania, Memorial Day weekend. While in Romania, the team committed two days for volunteer work.

“Despite the language barrier between us and the people we were working with, it was satisfying accomplishing various tasks from painting benches to trimming greenery alongside a group of passionate people,” said Staff Sgt. Dale Mundt, a volunteer from the 425th ABS.

Every step of this mission was a collaborative effort on many fronts. Multiple organizations worked collectively to provide respite rooms, clothing, hygiene items, food, and first aid. Members of the local community came together to build benches and clean the playground.

We spent the second day at a Bucharest train station where volunteers assisted refugees arriving from Ukraine. While working at the station, we encountered college students who had taken the semester off school to help translate for the refugees and the local fire department assisting in the search for temporary housing.

“I felt hope, there were so many good people there doing so many good things for these displaced people,” said Tech Sgt. Melvin Hale, a volunteer from the 425th ABS.

In the end, the children in the respite room at the train station left the longest lasting mark on the entire team. Jimenez broke the ice when we bought all the families ice cream sandwiches. This quickly led to the children opening up and interacting with the team.

Looking back, I am not sure what brings me more joy. If it was helping those children or watching the team interact with the children.

Staff Sgt. Destiny Lemos, a volunteer from the 425th ABS, described a seven-year-old boy named Andriy as “feisty and energetic.” Neither spoke each other’s language, so they communicated with a translation application on Lemos’s phone.

While he was playing with his older sister, Andriy broke his shoe. His older sister, Julieta, asked Lemos for help and a bit of tape, she was able to make a quick repair. For her small act of kindness, Julieta insisted she take one of her gummy bears as a thank you.

“We all got to play, draw, and talk. I loved learning more and more about these amazing kids,” said Lemos. “Their smiles were so bright, you wouldn't even think of the horrors they had to endure fleeing from war.”

As best stated by Hale, “There was a sense of gratitude there as well, not just from those that were displaced and in need of help but from each of us as well, grateful for the opportunity to do what felt like so little.”

Other volunteers that we encountered often repeated they were just trying to do what they could.  However, collectively those small acts made a difference to so many people.