We would like to introduce you to Valentyna Kesova. Val is a former employee at Skydive San Diego and Tac Air Ops. She is an incredible human with a huge heart for her country, her family, and her friends who are still in her home nation of Ukraine. Val came here to the United States, served in our military, learned our culture, our language. She is one of us.
My name is Valentyna and I am from Khmelnytskyi, Ukraine.
My father was a Soviet artillery officer, so I got to grow up all over that region of eastern Europe. I was born in Hungary and five years later we got stationed in Armenia. Shortly after we moved, my brother and I had to be evacuated back to Ukraine because of a major earthquake. I can still remember running out of our apartment building just before it collapsed and having to sleep in a big military tent with many other families. After living through that disaster, I can only imagine what people are going through now that Russia has invaded.
When I was sixteen, I got to study abroad in the United States. I instantly fell in love with the people, culture and saw how many opportunities America has to offer for those that are willing to work hard. After a year had passed, I went back to Kyiv, Ukraine to start college. I eventually graduated with a Master’s Degree in International Economics from Kiev National Economic University (KNEU). After graduation, I moved to New York where I spent eight years working different jobs. While in New York, I checked skydiving off my bucket list. It gave me wings and the courage to do things that I previously thought would be impossible.
In 2013 I joined the United States Navy to do air rescue. By that time, I was a single mother of two wonderful kids, ages three and five. Things didn’t go as planned and I was assigned to be a Machinist Mate (Mechanic). I was stationed in San Diego, CA where I met my husband Danny, who was also serving in the Navy. For the next seven years, I served as an active-duty sailor and as a reservist in CRS-1 and HVU. While being in the reserves, I started working at Skydive San Diego.
After many jumps, I decided I wanted to be a part of a team. I worked at manifest for about a year, meanwhile earning some skydiving licenses and ratings. In 2016 I got an opportunity to join Tactical Air Operations as a Senior rigger and later became a Master rigger. I can sincerely say that time at Tac Air was the best time of my life. I grew as a professional, I challenged myself in so many ways, I gained confidence that I can do it all jump out of planes and sew a parachute together. I met so many amazing people along the way and most importantly I was doing a job that made a difference.
In 2019 my husband and I finished our time in the military and started a small business making gear for the military out of our garage. It picked up so fast that once the pandemic hit, we decided it was time to go all in. We made a move to Texas. By that time, we had 4 kids and needed more space for them and the business.
While I was given an opportunity to move to the United States, my parents and my brother didn’t. My parents also own a small business, they make artificial Christmas trees, wreaths, etc. back in Ukraine. My brother works as an airline pilot for Ukrainian airlines. He is married and has two kids, ages five and nine. It’s been nothing but heartbreaking to see them go through hell since Russia invaded. They woke up to loud noises of their neighborhood in Kiev being bombed. Scrambled what they could and left to my parent’s town, Khmelnytskyi. My sister-in-law’s parents, unfortunately, are still in Kyiv. It took two days for my brother’s wife to cross the Hungarian border with their two kids. They are here in Texas with us now. Men ages 18-60 are not allowed to leave the county and are conscripted into the military. My uncle is currently defending in Lugask area, my dad and brother are in territorial defense forces in Western Ukraine. My mom chose to stay in Ukraine as she did not want to leave her father, son, and husband behind. Lots of people are fleeing to the town where my parents live since it’s not under heavy fire like Eastern Ukraine. My parents have two families with kids staying in their 1-bedroom apartment and there are lots of situations like this.
My childhood friend Andriy is hosting over 50 people at his small property about 70 Miles away from Khmelnytskyi. It used to be a camping location and he turned it into a refugee camp so he can help people. Some come and go but most stay. A lot of them come with very little money or nothing at all. While my family is not currently in need of financial help, many others are
My husband and I decided to do a fundraiser on our business page at www.parashootergear.com which was a great success. We raised close to $1500 in as little as 2 hours! Our GoFundMe is at over $2500 now and with help of Bonnie from the Bold clothing factory, who donated 50 t-shirts, we designed a T-shirt in support of Ukrainian troops and 100% of all proceeds are going to help families that need it the most. So far, we’ve been able to help Andriy’s refugee camp to stock up on food and purchase sleeping bags and thermal clothing. We also were able to provide $1500 for a church in Ivano Frankivsk that hosts about 50 families and help someone in my parent’s town who took in two families. We want to do more.
The situation in Ukraine may not resolve anytime soon and we expect it to get worse before it gets better. The Russian invasion has done grave damage to my country and its people. The road to recovery will be long and painful. While I am thankful that my sister-in-law and kids can stay with us, I know so many people that went from doing great in life to being homeless and needing help. We are amazed at how caring people are, from friends to business clients and neighbors. We’ve been blown away by the number of calls, text messages, all your kind words, and help for the people of Ukraine. We appreciate you all from the bottom of our hearts.
As you can see, Val has been through it and has managed to achieve a high level of success. Knowing Val for many years, watching her children and family grow, I can tell you firsthand that she is hurting for her loved ones facing this ominous and uncertain future. I would like to ask you to join us in supporting Val’s friends and family in Ukraine as they stand up and be the needed shelter for their countrymen and women, facing this evil invasion. You can find support t-shirts in our gear store (in one week) and online now at www.parashooter.com. We are currently accepting donations on the below location at https://givesendgo.com/G2XF6?utm_source=sharelink&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_campaign=G2XF6. Please know that 100% of ALL donations and t-shirt sales will be making their way to Ukraine to help someone in need. The people of Ukraine need your help. They need our help. Let’s do our part.
CEO, Skydive San Diego, Tac Air Ops, LLC