A Heroic Effort

A Heroic Effort

Bulletin Feature: Bill Endicott ’63 uses connections from his Olympic competition days to assist soldiers fighting in Ukraine.

"Starting last summer, I conceived of and then helped set in motion Operation Renew Prosthetics, a program to provide artificial legs and arms for Ukrainian soldiers with amputations. How it started is a pretty good story — it all had to do with the Olympics and the sport of whitewater canoeing and kayaking!

Photo of Bill Endicott '63 with Operation Renew Prosthetics.

A group of Ukrainian soldiers and volunteers involved with Operation Renew Prosthetics. Bill Endicott ’63 is second from the right. Mike Corcoran, mentioned in this piece, is on the left.

Back in 1988, I was the coach of the United States Olympic team in that sport, and I started a kayaking exchange program with the Soviet Union. We went to Moscow and then to Soviet Georgia, where there was a good whitewater river to train on. While doing this I met coaches and athletes from Russia and Ukraine and I stayed in touch with them ever since, including now during the war in Ukraine. But by last summer I began to feel that just communicating with these folks wasn’t enough, and I needed to do something.

Also in 1988, an Irishman by the name of Mike Corcoran came to train with us because we had a number of world champions at the time and he thought training with them would enhance his chances of making his Irish Olympic team. That worked, and we all went to the 1992 Olympics together. My team was lucky enough to win gold and bronze medals — and two fourth places!

After his Olympic days were over, Mike went into the prosthetics business and now runs Medical Center Orthotics and Prosthetics (MCOP) in Silver Spring, Maryland. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, MCOP cared for 1,100 U.S. soldiers with amputations, so Mike has more experience dealing with blast injuries than just about anybody in the world.

Because of these things, I asked Mike, who’s a neighbor of mine, if he’d be willing to care for Ukrainian soldiers. And he immediately said yes, because he believes, as I do, that Ukraine is not only fighting for its liberty and independence, it’s fighting civilization’s battle of democracy against autocracy and we need to help them.

As a result, we created Operation Renew Prosthetics (ORP). We work with about 10 partners now. Two of our partners, the Future for Ukraine Foundation and Revived Soldiers Ukraine, pay to fly the soldiers over here, and then another organization, United Help Ukraine, helps pay to house and feed them here.

MCOP also has an office in Malta, and in late January I was in Malta to help kick off ORP there because it costs only about half as much to care for a soldier there as it does in the Washington, D.C., area. We work with several partners in Malta.

Mike initially said he’d care for six soldiers for free and then we’d have to raise money to keep going. We’re now up to 14 soldiers at an expense of about $1 million, but we’ve raised about $250,000, with more fundraisers planned for the future.

Our ultimate goal is to create one or more state-of-the art prosthetic centers in Ukraine itself, and we are discussing this with Ukrainian officials now. In fact, from April 13–20, Mike and I were in Ukraine meeting officials in both Lviv and Kyiv, and I think we made good progress in both cases.


Operation Renew Prosthetics (ORP) provides prosthetics for soldiers with amputations injured in the war in Ukraine. In its first three months of operation, ORP provided prosthetics and rehabilitation services for 12 severely wounded soldiers, with many more expected. ORP’s goal is to continue to expand the program by creating a state-of-the-art prosthetics center in Ukraine.


Our aim is to be able to not only care for Ukrainian soldiers (and possibly civilians, too) but also to train Ukrainians in the most up-to-date techniques for doing this and help them transition away from their antiquated Soviet prosthetics system. We need to raise a ton of money to do all this, so we’re working on that.

People ask me what it’s like in Ukraine these days. You can’t fly there, so you either drive and risk getting held up at the border for hours, or you take the train (like President Biden did), which is what we did to get to Lviv.

In Lviv you wouldn’t know there’s a war going on at all. But it’s a bit scarier to go to Kyiv. We drove from Lviv and as we got to within about 40 miles from Kyiv approaching from the west, traversing an area that the Russians had occupied, we started to see a lot of war damage — flattened and abandoned houses. Ukraine, however, has made tremendous efforts to get public services back to normal.

For example, holes in the highway have all been repaired and all gas stations are running normally. We visited a few towns to the north of Kyiv, including Bucha and Irpin, sites of Russian massacres. Local residents told me that during their occupation, the Russians instituted a curfew from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. and anybody out at the wrong time would be shot — and many hundreds were.

Luckily, we happened to be in Kyiv during a lull in Russian drone and cruise missile attacks. We heard only one air raid siren. But only one hour after we took the night train out of Kyiv, a Ukrainian soldier we had cared for texted us that a drone attack was in progress. Since then, there has been a vast increase in cruise missile and drone attacks.

The Ukrainians are getting really good at shooting these things down because of the Patriot missile batteries the West has sent them. But Ukrainian friends tell me there is still significant damage to buildings and cars from falling rocket debris, albeit no deaths right now. It’s worse in other Ukrainian cities closer to Russia, though, where there are both no Patriot missiles and less time to react to drones and cruise missiles being sent only a short distance away in Russia.

Through it all, however, you’d be amazed at how resolute the Ukrainian people are during all this, both the soldiers we have cared for and the civilians. They’re determined to fight on to the end.

Working on this project has been even more exciting than winning the Olympics. That’s because now we’re dealing with people who have faced death, and we’re helping to give them a new life. Not only that, but many of our soldiers say they want to go back and help with the war again.

One of our soldiers has been a former U.S. Marine who lost his arm fighting for Ukraine. After we gave him a new one, he said he wanted to go back to the fighting. Now, I was once a U.S. Marine myself, so I know about “Semper Fi” — “Always Faithful” — but this is really pushing it! Uuurahhh — I’m motivated!"