Marine veteran Sean Schofield volunteering in Ukraine | News

For about a month, US Marine veteran Sean Schofield has been sending cables back to Cullman from a place few would willingly go. As of late March, he is one of more than 6,000 foreign volunteers from the US, Australia, the UK and other Western countries who have left civilian life and traveled to Ukraine to assist military personnel and civilian supporters in building a sovereign defense help against the Russian invasion.

During that time, Schofield has sent home that he’s already seen active combat, participated in missions to escort civilians through combat zones, and participated firsthand in Ukraine’s ad hoc response to Russia’s massive military machine. He has traveled the country almost continuously and most recently (at the request of Ukraine) settled on the outskirts of Kyiv. There he was an instructor in a training unit that trains Ukraine’s armed forces – many of whom have only recently drafted in with no prior experience – on an intensive two-week military crash course before sending them to the front lines.

Schofield’s presence in Ukraine was made possible by the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine, a unit of the Ukrainian Armed Forces established by Ukraine’s government under President Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier this year. It’s not a mercenary job by any means: the Ukrainian government provides foreign volunteers like Schofield with board and lodging – but everything else, including the cost of flying there, is borne by the volunteer.

“The Ukrainian embassy basically explained it like this: ‘We won’t pay you, but if you want to get your money’s worth then do it: we will feed you and give you a place to sleep,'” says Ken Brown, a Cullman resident and active local VFW member who has aired a series of interviews with his fellow duty mate on local TV and Facebook since Schofield landed in Ukraine.

“He made it there, but he did it out of his own pocket,” Brown says. “It cost him $1,800 to get there, another $1,800 to get him back, plus $2,000 worth of equipment and a $1,000 gun permit that goes to the Ukrainian government. He was originally supposed to stay there until the end of June – if all goes well. Of course, the International Special Forces Group is in Kyiv, and if the capital were threatened again, it’s possible he would be involved in a response – and that would obviously affect his schedule.”

Schofield lived in Cullman with his wife and two children for most of the time he wore civilian clothes, and relocated to Alabama from his native state of Massachusetts not long after his honorable retirement from the Corps in 2005 after a post-September. 11 Tour of Iraq and Kuwait as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Schofield already knew what it was like to recommit to a cause he believed in: He joined the Marines at age 18 straight out of high school and had finished his service, which included a tour of duty as an airgun observer in Okinawa , Japan, included , by the year 2000. But like many soldiers, the 9/11 attacks inspired him to go back into uniform.

Leaving the comforts of home behind to volunteer in a conflict abroad is not a decision Schofield made lightly. In a recent video chat with Brown, Schofield said that early reports of indiscriminate killing, coupled with the aggression of a peacetime invasion of a sovereign neighbor, sparked a voluntary instinct he’s harbored ever since, before returning after 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center registered with the Marines.

“‘The bad guys don’t even try to find the good guys in uniform and fight them,’ he explained. “They shoot everyone… It went back to a lot of the original reasons I wanted to be a Marine in the first place. Marines are always the good guys; everywhere they go… and I wore that uniform with so much pride.”

Not everyone who has traveled to Ukraine to support the fight is a soldier: Brown estimates that more than half of the 6,000 international volunteers in the country are there to provide medical and social assistance. The trained military volunteers to which Schofield belongs number between 2,500 and 3,000 people, he estimates.

“He just felt like he was primed to go out there and be one of those people who could make a difference,” Brown says. “Sean is a trained Martial Arts Instructor in the Marine Corps and also a Marksmanship Instructor, and he has watched fights from his time on duty. It’s a pretty remarkable thing for someone who lives in Cullman to look at what’s going on there and think, ‘You need me. I can help.'”

Schofield is a member of the local VFW, which manages donations to fund the remainder of his Ukraine tour — including his trip back home. Checks in support of Schofield’s volunteer mission may be made out to Cullman Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2214 with “Sean Schofield” in the subject line for any amount and to VFW (112 Veterans Drive SW, Cullman, AL, 35055).

Leave a Comment