“On behalf of my spouse Svetlana and myself personally, I would like to thank you and all the other members of the USMLM Association for your material assistance. What you have done for us I cannot put into words. I could not possibly have thought that such assistance would come from individuals who do not even know me. For that, I doff my hat to you and express my sincere thanks.” [Sergei Sidorenko]
With those words, Sergei Sidorenko, a former enlisted driver in the Soviet Military Liaison Mission in Frankfurt am Main (1978-1980), expressed his thanks for the monetary support rendered by individuals from the USMLM and BRIXMIS Associations. For Sergei, who has been an invalid for a year because of a leg amputation, the $3,900 raised for him to buy a motorized wheelchair is a life-changing Christmas present.
In July of this year, the staff of the USMLM Association received an email from Sergei who contacted us through the USMLM website. Sergei was looking for help. He had exhausted all his local options. An invalid, he lived with his wife, Svetlana, in a rural part of Belarus. He had a wheelchair but was dependent on Svetlana to go anywhere outdoors. He could neither afford nor even find a motorized wheelchair that would enable him to move around his yard or – as he dreamed – go once again down to the nearby lake.
We can imagine how much of a reach it was for Sergei to ask for help from us – an organization that was literally the opposite of his during the Cold War. And my first response to Sergei was not what he wanted to hear. I told him that our association was not a charitable one and did not provide support even to our own veterans. Sergei thanked me and probably thought that was the end of his search for help. But it wasn’t. Sergei had also been corresponding with COL (ret) Larry Kelley. Larry and I discussed Sergei’s situation and we decided that, although the association isn’t in the business of raising funds for such needs, there was nothing preventing us from reaching out to individuals to see if we could find help for Sergei. The response from our comrades was immediate. With the help of several USMLM veterans and one BRIXMIS Association officer we quickly exceeded our goal, raising $3,900.
On November 11th, I emailed Sergei to tell him the good news. He answered:
Дорогой Кевин! Большое спасибо за письмо. Я, когда перевёл, то сразу не поверил своим глазам. Так же на скайп пришло от Л.Келли, я его тоже поблагодарил за помощь.
Dear Kevin! Thanks so much for the letter. When I had translated it, I could not believe my eyes. I also got a letter from Larry Kelley through Skype and thanked him as well.
A month later, on December 20th, Sergei received his new chair – a special German-built chair which will allow him to drive outside and visit his favorite lake. Below is his letter of thanks:
Здравствуйте, дорогие друзья!
Хочу от себя лично и моей супруги (Светланы) поблагодарить Вас, а так же всех членов Ассоциации ветеранов USMLM – за оказанную материальную помощь.
Ведь то, что Вы сделали для нас – это не объяснить словами. Я и подумать не мог, что помощь придёт от людей, которые меня не знают. За это Вам низкий поклон и большое спасибо. Со своей стороны я обещаю, что все средства, собранные Вами, пойдут на благие намерения.
С уважением, Сергей Сидоренко
Ещё раз, Благодарю за неописуемую помощь в тяжелый момент момент моей жизни.
Да Хранит Вас Господь!
“Hello, my dear friends!
On behalf of my spouse Svetlana and myself personally, I would like thank you and all the other members of the USMLM Association for your material assistance. What you have done for us I cannot put into words. I could not possibly have thought that such assistance would come from individuals who do not even know me. For that, I bow down and give my deepest thanks. For my part, I promise you that all of the money that you collected will go toward the fulfillment of those good intentions.
Once again, thank you for this indescribable help at this difficult moment in my life. God save you all!
We cut the donations off when we reached our goal. Who knows how much we would have collected? But all of us can be proud of the response that came from this side of the world when an old adversary asked for help.
A special thanks goes to the following people who helped either through donations or by working to get the donations to Sergei:
Michael Barton (BRIXMIS Association), William Burhans, James Connell, James Cox, Michael Crutcher, John Fahey, Randall Greenwalt, James Holbrook, Larry Kelley, Larry Patterson, Wolfgang Preisler, Robert Roach, Kevin Ryan, Alan Sandomir, Larry Schwab, Nicholas Troyan, Raymond Walters.