WARSAW, Poland – In 2005, along the Iraq-Syrian border, Jared Malone was on his second combat deployment with the Marines as a tank crewman when insurgents fired on his unit.
The Marines returned fire and civilians, including some children, were killed in the crossfire.
“Those images stayed with me for years,” Malone said sitting in a sunlit-dappled room in Warsaw on Monday. “To a point when we had our twins it immediately brought up a lot of those feelings.”
After that second deployment, Malone struggled to reintegrate into civilian society and so returned to Iraq as a private contractor to train Iraqi soldiers. But the trauma of that encounter in 2005 persisted and worsened when he had twin daughters in 2015.
“A lot of anger. A lot of frustration, nightmares,” he said of that time. “I saw that it was starting to affect my everyday life and I needed to make a change.”
He started going to counseling through Veterans Affairs and, after processing and healing, went back to school. Malone is now a licensed master social worker with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Hawaii and a master’s from Fordham University.
In 2019, he moved to Post Falls to be closer to family and is working on a two-year field study at Heritage Health.
Or at least he was, because when war erupted in Ukraine in February, Malone felt compelled to help.
He passed his licensure test on March 4 and immediately started following online volunteer groups, trying to figure out how he could help in Ukraine. That’s when he came across the Victory Christian Church in Lviv, a city in the country’s west that has remained largely untouched by the kind of bombing happening in central and eastern Ukraine. He reached out to the church’s pastor.
The pastor responded bluntly.
“I don’t want volunteers,” Malone recalled the pastor saying. “I need donations. I need to fundraise to rent more space.”
But Malone felt he had a “calling.” He highlighted his unique mix of skills, a combat veteran with a social work degree, plus his faith.
“I was very persistent,” Malone said.
A week ago, the pastor agreed and invited Malone over.
With the blessing of Heritage Health, Malone landed in Warsaw on Sunday where he was picked up by Polish-Ukrainian pastor Andrzej Stepanow. On Monday, he was scheduled to be driven to Lviv.
While in Lviv he hopes to be a face for ongoing fundraising efforts back in the United States. Already he’s raised $22,000, with more on the way. That money will go toward renting a large space in Lviv to help house the millions of refugees that have flooded through the city. Malone also will deliver medical supplies, providing trauma therapy, and generally helping in whatever ways he can.
“I feel like I can bring some unique skills to this mission as far as my military experience, military contracting experience, my education in mental health and my faith,” said Malone. “We’ve all seen what is happening and I can no longer stand by and do nothing.”
Spokesman-Review reporter Eli Francovich is in Eastern Europe to cover stories with ties to Spokane. Francovich’s articles will appear throughout the week. His trip was paid for largely by Spokesman-Review readers who have donated to the Community Journalism Fund and through the newspaper’s Northwest Passages event series. To help support this trip and similar newsroom efforts, contributions can be made at www.spokesman.com/thanks.
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