WESTON, Mo. — In a place where it’s much more likely to find a friendly face around the corner than danger, Weston, Missouri is welcoming Paul Schwennesen back from his trip to Ukraine, where danger was never very far away.
“Your mind is just turning summersaults trying to deal with it all,” Schwennesen said, talking about returning stateside after being in a warzone for weeks.
FOX4 first talked to Schwennesen a few weeks ago when he was still wearing body armor in Kiev while shelling rumbled the city in the background. He was doing whatever he could to get supplies to the front lines after connecting with a group of other military veterans from various backgrounds.
Schwennesen said his own military experience at some forward operating bases in Afghanistan helped him find his way through, and helped fighters turn back the Russians’ inital attack on the Ukrainian capital.
“I think it was the right time and the intentions were in the right place, and we were able to do a considerable amount of good,” Schwennesen said on his efforts.
His Facebook feed from the trip shows how his efforts peppered already damaged and destroyed neighborhoods with rations of hope in the form of fresh bread, food, and other supplies.
What he brought back home shows how common violence can be in parts of Ukraine.
“This is what Russians are killing civilians with,” Schwennesen said, holding up large shell casings, including one that once held a .50 caliber round. “They’re picturing major tank battles. That’s what they were for but they’re using these to destroy apartment complexes. They’re using these to shoot up civilian cars. It was a .50 cal that shot the head off a 12-year-old girl last week. It’s just horrible.”
In Weston, Schwennesen’s intermittent posts kept neighbors like Lorri Stanislav up to date.
“Everyone in town, it was a daily thing, ‘How’s Paul? Has anyone heard from Paul,” Stanislav said.
So far, the Russian military has been pushed out of cities it once held and is thought to be regrouping for another attack in the next few days or weeks.
“In a sane world, it would make [the Russians] think twice, but the Russians don’t seem to be acting sane on any measure in this engagement,” Schwennesen said.
Schwennesen said even though he’s safe at home, he’s not ruling out heading back to Ukraine for another trip. This time, he said his wife, Benthe Warnaar-Schwennesen, could go with him to help coordinate the effort from part of Poland, where he said things are remarkably normal despite the violence nearby. During this most recent trip, she coordinated help and resources from their home in Weston.
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