On 07 April, 2022, Oleg Tolmachev drove out of Ukraine’s capitol city of Kyiv along a main highway to the east and past 15 miles of burned out IFVs (infantry fighting vehicles) and tanks. In the shocking carnage, one vehicle stood out, emblazoned with white, spray painted letters: “WOLVERINES.”
Tolmachev captured what would become one of the most iconic images to come out of the Russia-Ukraine war. The photo was taken 3 weeks into the fight. The Ukrainian native says that the scene was unimaginable, but the vandalized Russian tank bearing the call sign from the movie Red Dawn was representative of the indomitable spirit of the Ukrainian people. The 1984 film tells the story of a band of American high school students who flee into the mountains to escape foreign invaders and then wage war on the enemy from their hideout.
“I, as a naturalized American, can really appreciate how close this spirit is to the values the U.S. stands for.” Tolmachev told us, when we reached out to him to ask permission to use his photo. He went on to describe how during the early days of the war in Ukraine, the state gas company, Naftogaz, (and Tolmachev’s employer) published a recipe for Molotov cocktails on their website. The people of Kyiv built a hundred thousand of them as they fought off their attackers.
Tolmachev, along with millions of others outside of the United States, share a perception of American Citizens as the rough-riding, armed-to-the-teeth gang of hooligan teenagers that hunkered down in the hills of Colorado to fend off invading forces with guerrilla tactics and sheer survival instinct. But how many Americans still have what it takes?
Imagine, if you will, an American gas corporation publishing the recipe for an incendiary device on their public facing web page. Even with enemies at the gates, the voices that lead this nation vilify an armed citizenry in our country. The same media outlets and politicians who beat the drum for gun control in the United States simultaneously sing praises of the armed Ukrainian civilians and lobby for more support of this militia. Some of the most ardent U.S. anti-gun activists herald the heroism of Ukraine’s armed people, as a quick run through Twitter will tell you.
Years before we spoke to Oleg Tolmachev or created our “Wolverines” shirt based on his memorable photo, the American Freedom Fund began supporting local veterans to compete in shooting matches around the country. What we have learned in the last seven years of long-range precision rifle sports, three gun matches and trap shooting, is that the Wolverine spirit is still alive and well in the United States. Just because you don’t hear them doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
Recently at a two-day long-range match in Washington State, our veterans joined over 100 other riflemen (and women) along a remote ridge top area that spanned thousands of acres. To stand shoulder to shoulder with men and women who were not only armed, but with some of the best precision technology in the world and a well-honed skill set, was reassuring to say the least. While many of the match participants hail from military and law enforcement backgrounds, there are many civilians who grew up with or developed a love for the sport.
Watching the care and attention given to the handling of their precision tools (many of which are now illegal to buy or sell in Washington State), it was clear that safety and stewardship are closely guarded principles of this community. These athletes come from every imaginable background and cover most of the political spectrum. Most of them, to be clear, are not teenagers, but to know that this was representative of a much larger network nationally, provides hope that there is some fighting spirit left in our country.
When the Russia-Ukraine war began, Ukraine ranked 88th in the world as far as armed populations go, with ten guns per hundred citizens. The United States, no surprise, is number one on the list, with 120.5 firearms per 100 citizens. While this triggers alarm in some of the loudest voices at the helm of our drifting nation, it should provide solace for the silent majority who understand, as civil-rights activist Huey Newton said,
“An unarmed people are slaves or are subject to slavery at any given moment.”
You can purchase our Wolverines shirt on our website (www.americanfreedomfund.org), and remind your friends and neighbors that we will not go gentle into that good night… there is still hope for our country. All proceeds support the veterans shooting team to cover match fees and the cost of ammunition for competitions.
“I myself will lay waste the land, so that your enemies who live there will be appalled.” – Leviticus 26:32