Enderby resident travels to Ukraine to fight on the front lines – Vernon Morning Star

Four weeks ago, Jaymz Alaniemi planned his next chapter in life. He was going to school in the fall to get a degree in computer programming.

Everything changed shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

He had watched the news and seen the build-up of Russian forces on the Ukrainian border from early December. When it turned out that President Vladimir Putin was not bluffing, the perils that awaited the Ukrainians touched him.

Now the Enderby man who retired from the military four years ago – and had no intention of returning to military service – is on his way to Ukraine to fight on the front lines.

“I definitely sat on it for a few weeks before making the decision, but it seems like the right thing for me to do right now,” he told the Morning Star.

Alaniemi, 26, joined the Canadian Army in 2013 and served with Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry based in Edmonton. He was part of a mechanized infantry unit that operated large armored vehicles and served in the military until 2018.

In a sense, the circle is complete for Alaniemi: he was first deployed to Europe in 2016-17 on a mission that was in direct response to the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014.

Based primarily in Poland, its deployment was then part of a large-scale NATO task force in countries on the alliance’s eastern flank – smaller ex-Soviet nations like Romania, Latvia and Lithuania. , where the threat of Russian aggression is ever-present.

This time around, Alaniemi is part of a volunteer brigade made up of former military personnel from Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, France and other countries. He plans to fly on April 3, arrive in eastern Poland and be transported across the Ukrainian border by April 5, when he will be armed by the Ukrainian military and sent where the fighters are most needed.

This will be Alaniemi’s first time in direct combat, and he says his past military experience – training with assault rifles, light machine guns, grenade launchers, anti-tank rockets and the like – will come in handy in Ukraine. .

A long reflection was necessary to make the decision to deploy. Part of this reckoning was tied to lessons learned from World War II.

“When Hitler was allowed to do whatever he wanted, he just kept taking more and more. So I think it’s the duty of democracies, if we value that way of life, to stand up and fight for it because we’ve had it pretty lax over the last 30 years where we haven’t really had the threat of war and it seems unthinkable, and now it’s in our faces again,” he said.

“If Putin is allowed to do whatever he wants in Ukraine, will he stop there? I have lots of family in Finland, which shares Europe’s largest land border with Russia. If he succeeds with Ukraine, what if he starts attacking other countries alongside Western Russia? »

It’s been a hectic few weeks and with days until he deploys, Alaniemi says he’s just trying to live day to day, “because you never know what’s going to happen next.”

He says not everyone can drop everything and fight or do medical work abroad, but he encourages people to help Ukrainians in any way they can.

And for those lacking hope or inspiration, he says look no further than Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“This guy is surrounded by a soldier who wants nothing more than to kill him and he has chosen to stay in the capital and lead the fight. I mean, it’s leadership you can’t ask for,” he said.

Alaniemi travels at his own expense and although he now covers his expenses through fundraising, a friend who is also deployed raises funds by selling clothes and stickers to elevatesupplyco.ca.

Brendan Shykora


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