LYNCHBURG, Va. – Law enforcement agencies from all over the Commonwealth are joining the fight for Ukraine, putting their old gear to good use.
Several gathered at the Lynchburg Sheriff’s Office Tuesday morning to pack up supplies, which included nearly 500 pieces of body armor.
For one local officer, the gesture means a little more.
“The situation is very difficult. We don’t know what’s tomorrow. I don’t know if I will get a call from Sasha tomorrow,” Ilona Penner says. “All we have left is to go day-by-day and pray. They’re not going to give up. We here need to not give up helping them, too.”
The tears Penner sheds are for her 20-year-old cousin, Sasha, and the thousands of others fighting alongside him in Ukraine.
When she puts on a uniform for Liberty University Police each day, she says she can’t help but think of how her loved ones back home go without it.
“Imagine yourself in your 20s. Imagine all the ambitions you have, all the things you want to do and how excited you are about life,” she says. “Now imagine all of a sudden being given a gun and being told if you want a future you have to go and protect. You have to fight.”
Penner’s cousin doesn’t have a bed. He hardly has food. More alarming, there are days he goes to war with only a gun--no helmet, no vest.
Those on the front line have to share because there aren’t enough. Even if there were, they couldn’t afford it.
When the folks with the month-old organization “Lift up Ukraine” heard this, they began searching to see what they could do to help.
“We originally sought out to purchase 5,000 vests from one of the major manufacturers. They said they would fill the order. You can imagine, we were very happy,” Co-Founder Levin White says. “But then they told us they were unable to because they couldn’t even fill their own orders due to supply chain issues.”
Getting gear to Ukraine proved challenging. However, White had a backup plan.
In the United States, law enforcement is required to get new gear every five years. Rather than use it for training, toss it out, or send it to the range, it’s going to Ukraine.
“If these almost 500 pieces of body armor are able to save one life, it was well, well worth it for us,” Lynchburg City Sheriff Donald Sloan says.
Sloan says those who wear the badge have a duty to protect and serve. He says this is the perfect way for them to do just that.
Nine different agencies from all over the Commonwealth played a role in filling the truck with helmets, vests and so much more.
“Those vests mean the future of Ukraine,” Penner adds. “Saving someone’s life, that’s what that vest does.”
Penner says she has no doubt people in Virginia will soon hear stories about the lives that were saved from the kind actions taken Tuesday.
The Lynchburg Sheriff’s Office is continuing to collect supplies. Deputies hope to send another truckload off to Ukraine next Tuesday.