The NY Post writes: Sarah Ashton-Cirillo, a transgender American who bravely joined the Ukrainian war effort, shared her experiences of combat, likening it to World War I. Speaking at an event organized by Mindy Franklin Levine at Yankee Stadium, Ashton-Cirillo, a junior sergeant in a Ukrainian unit based in Kharkiv, discussed her time fighting against Moscow’s soldiers.
Having previously worked with non-governmental organizations in the region and served as a war correspondent for “LGBTQ Nation,” Ashton-Cirillo decided to join the Ukrainian army in October 2022. As a Bronx native with significant experience in the Russian border zone, she felt compelled to contribute to the military effort.
After enlisting, Ashton-Cirillo underwent a background check, IQ test, and physical examination in Kyiv. In December, she returned to the United States where she addressed Congress and held fruitful meetings with Washington leaders.
Upon her return to Ukraine, Ashton-Cirillo expressed her desire to fight on the front lines and requested a reassignment to a combat unit. By the end of January, she had been transferred, and within days, she found herself engaged in her first battle.
Describing the experience, she highlighted the harsh conditions, with freezing temperatures and no proper roads. The Russian forces were in close proximity, and their dugouts were visible across the field. Living in trenches, exposed to dirt, ice, and mines, Ashton-Cirillo recounted a significant moment when she was abruptly awakened and instructed to grab her rifle. This marked her moment of truth, as she had specifically requested to be at the front lines.
Ashton-Cirillo’s first night in combat taught her more than the previous 11 months in Ukraine. Unfortunately, less than a month after joining the war, she sustained injuries from shrapnel caused by an artillery shell. This resulted in nerve and muscle damage in her right hand, a hole in her cheek and lip, and a hospital stay of 16 days. However, she quickly returned to the front as soon as she was medically cleared.
Remarkably, Ashton-Cirillo emphasized that she had not faced any harassment or negative reactions due to her gender identity. She described the environment as one of liberation, where her transgender identity was considered irrelevant. To her, being a soldier and a human being took precedence over everything else. She mentioned that the Russian media often referred to her as ‘it’ when featuring her on their television.
Sarah Ashton-Cirillo’s courageous decision to join the Ukrainian war effort and her experiences on the front lines provide a unique perspective on the ongoing conflict. Her resilience and commitment to her role as a soldier challenge stereotypes and highlight the importance of inclusivity and acceptance in the face of adversity.