1 March 2024

"Because I could" - Selfless veteran honoured for using his superannuation for humanitarian efforts in Ukraine

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
Start the conversation
Local veteran Damien Nye was honoured at the Combined Rotary Peace Ceremony for his humanitarian work in Ukraine.

Local veteran Damien Nye was honoured at the Combined Rotary Peace Ceremony for his humanitarian work in Ukraine. Photo: Michael McCormack MP Facebook/Supplied.

A local veteran who risked everything to provide for those in war-torn Ukraine has been honoured for his selfless act.

Damien Nye was awarded the Wagga Wagga City Council Peace award at the 2024 Combined Rotary Peace Day ceremony on Sunday 25 February, at the Victory Memorial Gardens.

Damien told Region he felt exhilarated winning the award.

“It was awesome,” Damien said. “It was unexpected. I wasn’t expecting an award.

“I look at this this way … it wasn’t just a me thing but also everyone that came on board to help.

“It’s a shared celebration.”

READ ALSO Forget the cupcakes, Jenny Rolfe-Wallace wants financial equality for International Women’s Day

A couple of months after Russia began its war, Damien packed his bags and went to Ukraine in April 2022.

When asked why he chose to take out his superannuation to provide humanitarian aid to war-torn Ukraine, nearly 13,000 kilometres away from home, Damien promptly responded, “Because I could.”

“I couldn’t just sit there and watch what was happening on the TV without doing something about it,” Damien said.

“I knew what I was getting myself into by going over there, and my family supported me with my first and second trips.

“Going over there, my experience justified everything we did, mentally.”

While in Ukraine, Damien set up an aid organisation and organised essential aid and deliveries to Ukrainians impacted by the war. He later partnered with the NGO Ukrainian Patriot.

“While my job is done in Ukraine, we’ve still got Aussies going in and out of the country all the time, and we look after them,” Damien said.

The veteran said he was happy other people had the same thoughts as him.

“It was a big thing to leave the family and go overseas, let alone go to a war-torn country twice,” Damien said.

“There are a lot of other people who have done the same thing and have been working with us.

“I am proud of what it’s become, and it’s a well-oiled machine that’s going places.”

Veteran Damien Nye, Travis Gee, Michael Romalis and Galina Romalis

Veteran Damien Nye with his team of Ukrainian Patriot helpers. Left – Travis Gee from Brisbane, Michael Romalis, and Galina Romalis from Perth. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

The Uranquinty local thanked Wagga Wagga Rotary Club for the $5000 donation.

“If it weren’t for [Rotary], then we wouldn’t have had the funds to get over there and get the networking sorted and working,” he said.

“There are too many to mention, from people I don’t know to friends and family, local sponsors and The Rock Post Office.

“The Rock Post Office sent packages to Kyiv in Ukraine free of charge … everyone has made a massive difference.”

Born and raised in Wagga, the veteran joined the Australian Army in 2004 and medically retired in 2015.

Damien, his wife, and his children run the Riverina Classic and Muscle Car Muster and donate all the funds from the club to the charity.

READ ALSO Why someone should put a BOM under El Nino – and run for cover

The Helen and Peter Walsh Memorial Peace Award was presented to Wagga Wagga Base Hospital Auxiliary Op Shop.

The Rotary Club Award for Community Service was awarded to Ali Tanner, Elizabeth Parsons, John Evans, Rev. Karen Kime, Uncle Hewitt Whyman, Patricia Walmsley and Judy Heard.

The School Community Service Award was presented to Kildare Catholic College, Kooringal High School, Mater Dei Catholic College, Mount Austin High School, The Riverina Anglican College, Wagga Christian College and Wagga High School.

Several dignitaries, including Wagga Wagga City Council Mayor Dallas Tout, Member for Wagga Wagga Dr Joe McGirr and Member for Riverina Michael McCormack, attended the Peace Day ceremony.

For more information on Ukraine Patriot and Riverina Classic and Muscle Car Muster and to make any donations, follow the links.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Riverina news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riverina stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.