The Ukraine on my mind

Published 1:10pm Monday, March 17, 2014

I’ve been thinking hard about the conflict in Ukraine the last couple of weeks. Serves me right that two days I write a column vaguely favoring the proposed drawdown of our military forces, the Great Russian Bear would start to get frisky again. This one seems like a bigger deal though because I feel a stronger tie with Ukraine than the average former Soviet Republic.

We know two couples in the area who not only travelled to Ukraine – the disputed Crimean peninsula to be exact – but adopted two of the orphans there while on a missions trip.

Our family friend Rev. Tom Benz built an entire ministry around reaching out to the thousands of orphans in that country. My parents went there a few summers to help Tom and his team put on vacation Bible schools for the kids there.

Elmore County High even owes its best season in program history in part to Ukrainian exchange student Anton, the best goalkeeper ever to grace an Eclectic pitch.

Simferopol and Sevastopol are in the news now, as Russian troops swiftly invade with the confidence of a one-time superpower who knows the world’s real superpower is not exactly on its game. I have winced listening to news anchors mangle the pronunciations.

I worry for those Ukrainians like Anton whom I’ve met, for those my parents met over there and for the orphans who came to Tom’s camp near Clanton, BridgeStone. I can’t recall what city Anton was from, what part of the country he called home.

I don’t think our nation is willing or able to do anything about Russia’s actions in Ukraine, even if our political leadership would even consider it.

So all that can be done is keep watch on the news and pray the situation works out for the best. Well, that and to proudly wear my Ukrainian National Team jersey in solidarity with those fighting for their freedom.


There’s an Eclectic connection to Carly’s Bill, the legislation that just cleared the Senate to allow use of a medicine derived from marijuana plants. The version of the bill that cleared the Senate limits distribution of the cannabidiol medication to researchers at UAB, but it’s a good start for families whose children suffer from a form of epilepsy that causes debilitating seizures.

The cannabis-derived drug is the only thing that has worked in a way that didn’t sedate the child beyond lucidity. The medication was synthesized to alleviate the seizures without the intoxicating effects.

Along with the bill’s namesake 3-year-old Carly Chandler, another poster child for the effort is Gabriel Pass, son of Rev. Frank Pass, the former youth minister of Eclectic United Methodist Church.

It’s been a long difficult effort for the bill’s sponsors to break through the “just say no” attitude to marijuana and its derivatives that still runs strong in Alabama. It took some guts for a Methodist minister to step out in favor, but there are few things that inspire courage like the needs of one’s children.

Carly’s Law passed in the state Senate, by a unanimous vote. But it still faces a tough road in the House. This is not after all Washington or Colorado, or even one of the many other states that have approved marijuana for medicinal purposes.


David Goodwin writes a regular column for The Wetumpka Herald. Contact him at

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