11-year-old Ukrainian amputee finds hope in bond with wounded USAF vet

11-year-old Ukrainian amputee finds hope in bond with wounded USAF vet

Mykola was just like any American 11-year-old, but the landscape he lived in is not like America. He was playing tag with his brother and friends when he came across a crate of Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs). Being a curious 11-year-old, he picked up one of the RGPs and began running with it. When he was tagged by a friend, he tripped and fell. The RPG hit the ground and exploded. …

Articles about him began appearing around the world. In one of them, a media reporter asked Mykola about a photo he had above his bed. It was a photo of another triple amputee holding his newborn son. Mykola explained to them that the photo was of an American soldier injured in a war. He said, “This is my hero. I want to be like him.”

It was a photograph of me. …

On December 1, which also happened to be my birthday, I received word that Mykola had arrived at Montreal’s Shriners Hospital. This day now had more meaning than ever before for both of us.

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On December 13, my wife, Ashley, and I boarded the jet and headed north. …

When I walked into the room, there was Mykola, lying in bed, with no legs. He looked up at me, and after our eyes met, he abruptly turned away, curled up into a ball and cried. His mother tried to console him, but he kept crying. I asked all but the medical staff and the translator to leave the room.

I handed Mykola the Lego set, but he couldn’t stop crying; I felt terrible. Then I took off my robotic prosthetic hand and laid it on the bed in front of his face. He suddenly stopped crying and was soon grinning like any 11 year-old boy might. I had his attention. I had his trust.

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