BC paramedic Will Rogers with a young Ukrianian boy during a flag-signing in the war-torn country. Special to the Herald

Having twice volunteered in war-ravaged regions of Ukraine, paramedic Will Rogers is hoping the third time pays off for all.

To that end, the 36-year veteran of the BC Ambulance Service, who lives in Cloverdale, has launched a massive fundraising campaign he hopes will help that country’s war victims long into the future.

“My ask is this — and it’s a big ask — I’m asking people to donate to a fund that will continue to support Ukraine and will live on forever,” said Rogers, who regularly makes trips to the Okanagan to visit friends and family, including his mother and brother in Naramata. 

“I put it into the perspective that if someone came to me with a big ask, I would help. A war chest of $10 million is a good start but $20 million should be able to generate a 

million dollars a year to support and help equip Ukraine. 

“We are blessed to live in a country where we enjoy stable lives and security. People in Ukraine have neither.”

The 64-year-old father and grandfather of seven is planning to return to Ukraine  this fall.

His most recent visit was for several weeks in March and his  initial tour of duty was last November when he drove Ukrainian support vehicles, including two ambulances, from England across northern Europe to their Ukrainian destination.

Rogers is a volunteer member of Frontline Medics, a California-based organization that provides medical and transport services internationally and is currently working in Ukraine.

BC paramedic Will Rogers in an ambulance with a patient in Ukraine. Special to the Herald

Members use advance-life support ambulances to provide medical evacuations for those with complex medical issues of which there is no shortage.

Rogers admits his second trip in March was a spur of the moment decision, 

something two of his co-workers tried to talk him out of.

“I admit I wasn’t thinking about what I was getting myself into in hindsight,” said Rogers. “I did everything on the fly and I had no idea what to expect so I just literally threw caution to the wind and next thing I knew I was jumping on that Ukrainian train.

“The thing I did know is that it was an act of goodness and an act of self sacrifice and some peril. I put my blood type on my boots like everyone else, but there was no 

hesitation.”

On the edge of a mine field, near the Ukraine front line, one of the trucks got stuck in the mud and it was then BC paramedic Will Rogers spotted a trip wire, visible in the middle of the photo. Special to the Herald One day when Rogers was near the front, a vehicle in the group he was travelling in got stuck in the mud on the edge of a minefield. They all got out to help move the vehicles and when they were ready to get going again, Rogers spotted a tripwire at his feet.

The only real apprehension he felt was when his crew had been dispatched to Bakhmut but was cancelled at the last second out of concerns for paramedics’ safety.

“One of the medics was killed there when one of the ambulances was hit by a laser-guided, anti-tank missile,” said Rogers. “He was crouched down with the patient and between two other medics so his body took the brunt of the explosion and they 

survived.”

He and others believe that attack and similar other ones where medical personnel are hit by Russian artillery are deliberate.

“There’s a bombing and 10 or 15 minutes later there’s another one to try and kill the rescuers,” said Rogers. “It’s really insulting because that’s what I do, that’s what I’m trained to do, to go into those situations, a fire, a building collapse or plane crash.”

Canadian Will Rogers with the flag with the words ‘Canada Stands With You’ during his time in Ukraine. Special to the Herald

According to Frontline Medics CEO Jonathan Zirkle, this kind of attack only doubles the threat to his volunteers who are working to save lives.

“We were present there and it shows the missile was guided and very much intentional,” he said in a telephone interview. “These people (medics) are the most incredible. They are the real heroes and my hat’s off to them. They are going into the most dangerous places.

“If you were walking down the street and you saw somebody crying and in pain you would stop and help. That’s what these guys do.”

Living conditions are sparse and even 

medical services are limited in the besieged country but what continues to amaze Rogers is the resilience and determination of the Ukrainian people.

“I talked to a young fellow at one of the pickup points, he was about 25-years old, and had had his leg blown off,” recalls Rogers, who has spent about $37,000 of his own money to help. “I asked him what he was going to do and he said get a prosthetic and get right back in the fight.

“Another fellow in his 40s had both his legs taken off and he got prosthetics and went back to the fight. People are just so 

determined to do whatever it takes to win.” 

Both of Rogers’ trips have been to the city of Dnipro and surrounding area in the eastern part of the country, a region that has suffered multiple attacks since the Russian invasion began.

He also spent time in the regions of Kherson and Mykolaiv.

He actually arrived in Kherson as part of a mobile medical clinic just four days after the Russians had abandoned the previously 

captured city.

“The fact someone from Canada was there meant the world to them,” said Rogers. “Also, and especially in the smaller communities, people were coming up and hugging me,” he said. “I had a grown man kiss my hand and he was crying.

“People there are just so happy somebody from the outside world was there. They’re scared, they’re scared to death.

He added, “The people in Ukraine are being tortured and killed randomly. History is being written in front of our very eyes and the very existence of Ukraine and other countries is under threat.

“We can and should help. They would do the same for us.”

Contributions to his fundraising efforts can be made at the Aid For Ukraine GoFundMe page.

For more information about the work of Frontline Medics visit: frontlinemedics.org

By Mark Brett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 03, 2023 at 09:24

This item reprinted with permission from   Penticton Herald   Penticton, British Columbia
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