Central Florida man honored with Ukrainian military award for war service

A Lake County man has a new medal to add to his collection, thanks to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

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Shawn Sullivan, leader of Mission 823, has been working in the eastern European country for more than two decades. When war broke out as Russian troops invaded earlier this year, he was devastated, but determined to help.

Sullivan and his team quickly reoriented around helping the country survive the war. Since the invasion, they’ve sent 150 tons of supplies overseas, with an estimated 110 more on the way. Mission 823 has provided ambulances, ventilators, water filtration systems and meals to both soldiers and civilians.

Shawn Sullivan, leader of Mission 823, has been working in the eastern European country for more than two decades.
Shawn Sullivan, leader of Mission 823, has been working in the eastern European country for more than two decades.

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Additionally, they’ve housed refugees, organized camps for children and provided training on overcoming trauma and PTSD.

“There are a lot of different motivators in my life for Ukraine, and for the children and for the people of Ukraine, but the bottom line is since 1995, when I first went to Ukraine, I fell in love,” he said. “I literally count them as my second nation.”

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In a ceremony in Kyiv last week, his second nation recognized those efforts, bestowing medals to the Mission 823 staff and other people and military leaders deemed instrumental in the war effort. Sullivan said his medal will be placed alongside the honors he received for serving six years in the U.S. Navy.

Freshly back from his trip, his work is continuing. While his Ukrainian staff handed out supplies along the front lines in the country’s south, he spent his weekend speaking to groups and coordinating the logistics for their newest shipment. He was also working to source more ventilators for the nation’s health care system.

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“It’s an unjustified conflict,” he said. “Ukraine was doing all of the right things to be a good neighbor in the world. This attack on Ukraine is ... like the largest bully in the world falling on the floor and flailing about, throwing a temper tantrum because he can’t have a piece or sliver of land that really doesn’t belong to him.”

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