On Thursday, just hours into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a battalion of Ukranian Marines were deployed to protect the town of Henichesk, a strip of land that connects Crimea to Ukraine’s mainland. As a Russian column of tanks approached their position, Ukrainian forces were left with no choice but to destroy the Henichesk bridge. Disabling the bridge would slow the advance of Russian troops during the Kherson offensive.
A lone combat engineer named Vitaly Volodymyrovych Skakun volunteered to place mines on the bridge. After setting the charges, Vitaly didn’t have enough time clear the blast area before the Russian troops would make their way across the bridge. After texting his intentions to his teammates, the young marine detonated the explosives, destroying the bridge and selflessly giving his life in the process. His heroic actions significantly halted the Russian advance and allowed his unit to regroup and organize a counter defensive. Two days after his death, Ukrainian officials announced Vitaly would be posthumously awarded the Hero of Ukraine Order of the Gold Star.