L'VIV, Ukraine - Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe, participated in the America Days cultural festival here May 28 to highlight American training with the Ukrainian Land Forces.
Hodges, in remembrance of Memorial Day, began the morning by participating in a wreath laying at the Lychakiv Cemetery with the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, the mayor of L'viv and senior Ukrainian army officials.
The delegation of individuals honored the burial sites of Ivan Franko, a popular Ukrainian poet and writer, three U.S. servicemen and lastly a memorial to Ukrainians who fought in the Anti-Terrorist Operation zone or ATO, the name commonly given for the war in eastern Ukraine.
"It's a reminder that the United States has fought hard all around the world to protect freedom and to support people who want freedom. The memorials today remind me of the importance of the training mission that we have and the terrific Soldiers from the California National Guard and from the 3rd Battalion 15th Infantry Regiment out of Fort Stewart and the others who are here helping Ukraine defend itself," Hodges said.
Following the wreath laying, Hodges attended a street fair in front of the L'viv Theatre of Opera and Ballet and met with Soldiers from the California National Guard.
The Soldiers stood in front of a static vehicle display, spoke with members of the local community and posed for pictures.
"I think we were the largest attraction. We had about 40 to 45 people there with us at any given time. It was overall very well received. I had a blast with it. It was long days, but the comments were positive. It made us feel better about what we're doing here. We took a lot of pictures with people. I think everyone who was there stopped, talked to us, and took a picture with us," said Sgt. Andrew VanAntwerp, a computer detection systems repairer with the California National Guard.
America Days is a four-day festival sponsored by the U.S. Embassy showcasing American films, art, music, education and business in Ukraine.