Second-grader Lexi steps up to help Gov. Pete Ricketts support Ukraine

Nebraska law enforcement agencies donate expired body armor vests and helmets

By: - March 30, 2022 6:10 pm

Second-grader Lexi Fedoronko of Omaha’s Assumption Ukrainian Catholic Church speaks at Gov. Pete Ricketts’ press conference. To the left is Capt. Jason Scott of the State Patrol. (Cindy Gonzalez/Nebraska Examiner)

Second-grader Lexi Fedoronko stepped up to the podium during Gov. Pete Ricketts’ news conference Wednesday and offered a bit of insight into the human toll the attack on Ukraine has had in Nebraska.

Wearing a traditional Ukrainian flower crown called a vinok, the 7-year-old quietly spoke of her grandparents who remain in their homeland.

“I’m really sad,” the little Omahan said from a step stool, flanked by state officials. “Because they can die, and I really don’t want them to.”

Lexi and a Ukrainian priest who later led the group in prayer added a personal touch to an event held primarily to announce that Nebraska has collected some 560 pieces of protective gear for Ukrainians trying to fight off a Russian invasion.

Vests and helmets

The supplies, including 321 body armor vests and 69 Kevlar helmets, were delivered Tuesday to Iowa on a truck from the Nebraska Department of Transportation. The donations are on the way to Ukraine, along with a similar material donation from the Hawkeye state.

It also emphasizes the importance of how Nebraskans stand with Ukraine in this horrible, unprovoked aggression. ... We're doing our small part.

– Gov. Pete Ricketts

It was one way Nebraska could answer the call for help from a country besieged by an “absolutely unprovoked” Russian attack that has caused enormous suffering, Ricketts said.

“Putin has started what has become just the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II and obviously overturned the whole world peace that we’ve had since,” the governor said.

Expired but functional

Some 4 million people have left Ukraine since missiles began to strike Feb. 24, he added.

The body armor collected during the past week from law enforcement agencies and individual officers across the state were under expired warranties and therefore can’t be used in the United States, Ricketts said. But they remain functional and welcome as Ukraine fights for independence, he said.

“They still work. They will still stop shrapnel and bullets,” he said. “It also emphasizes the importance of how Nebraskans stand with Ukraine in this horrible, unprovoked aggression. We’ve got to stop this Russian war machine in its tracks, and we’re doing our small part.”

Rick Dahlman, deputy director of the Nebraska Military Department, said vests and helmets are the most requested items in Ukraine.

Capt. Jason Scott of the Nebraska State Patrol said that, typically, law enforcement protective equipment with expired warranties in the U.S. would be destroyed.

Prayer, donations

Asked about Nebraska possibly resettling Ukrainian refugees, Ricketts said only that the state continues to work with federal partners. He said, “I’ve been told most Ukrainians want to win the war and go home. They’re not looking to stay in the United States.”

The governor recognized various state agencies, including the Department of Administrative Services, for working together to gather the equipment. He and guests from Assumption Ukrainian Catholic Church in Omaha, including Lexi Fedoronko, asked Nebraskans to help through prayer and donations.

Editor’s note: Lexi’s grade in school has been corrected.


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Cindy Gonzalez
Cindy Gonzalez

Senior Reporter Cindy Gonzalez, an Omaha native, has more than 35 years of experience, largely at the Omaha World-Herald. Her coverage areas have included business and real estate development; regional reporting; immigration, demographics and diverse communities; and City Hall and local politics.