Two Years on the Ukrainian Front Lines

Mark Lindquist (at right) and a colleague from his A-Team Ukraine deliver supplies to the front line near the eastern border.

Nancy Edmonds Hanson

Two years ago, an idealistic Air Force veteran boarded a jet at Hector Airport for the Ukraine. For Mark Lindquist, doing what one man could do to preserve the freedom of the Ukraine changed the course of his life. “I don’t really know what I’ll do next,” he said at the time. “I’ll find out when I get there.”
Last week, he was back here for several days doing what he has found he can do to help the cause. Mark was talking about the courage and determination of the Ukrainian people … and raising money to continue to buy the non-military supplies that are desperately needed in this time of unrelenting warfare.
“I’ve been coming back to the U.S. Five or six times a year,” he explains. “I talk to anyone who will have me – service clubs, church groups, veterans organizations – gathering donations. Then I fly back by way of Poland, spend that money to gather supplies, and get them to where they’re needed most.
“When the money runs out, I come back again.”
When he first arrived in a Polish airport and caught a ride across the border, Mark was one of thousands of Western veterans and other volunteers drawn to defend the Ukraine against the invading Russian military. He connected, first, with men like himself, then with members of the defending forces.
“Over the first 18 months there, I developed relationships and friendships all over that country,” he says. “Think about walking into a war zone where you don’t know anybody. You’ve got to create friendlies. Now we talk every day. They talk, and I listen.” When they talk, he adds, it’s primarily in English: “After all this time and maybe 15 actual lessons, I can’t speak as well as a Ukrainian kindergartner. About all I can do is order a large coffee,” he says with a broad grin.
During his first months, while he was connecting with fellow volunteers whom he now calls the A-Team Ukraine, he and his colleagues were making what he now recognizes as an operational mistake. “We were working hard to deliver what we ourselves figured would help,” Mark reflects. “Along the line, I recognized that was a mistake. Now we know better. We’re the guys lying in the trenches to get their perspective about what about what’s really needed.”
That has amounted to huge deliveries of sometimes-unexpected necessities. Tourniquets and bandages and first-aid supplies. Four tires for an ambulance. Drones to use for surveillance. A series of at least 20 civilian vehicles, seats ripped out, to be used to transport the wounded. (“Vehicles don’t last more than a few days,” he notes. “They get blown up.”)
Mark’s team, along with a similar group of MIT grads who call themselves the Zero Line, has no government support or, in fact, little official presence beyond the American nonprofit status that enables them to receive charitable contributions. Instead, they concentrate on doing what they can for whom they can wherever their help is needed. Over 24 months in that embattled country, he has collected something like one and one-half million dollars in donations from his contacts in the Upper Midwest and elsewhere in America. “We’ve been able to turn that into maybe $10 million worth of donated non-military aid.”
What his Ukrainian friends need most, he says, is a sense of hope … of optimism. “Imagine that you’re living through 9/11, but day after day after day. Everyone in Ukraine is living in a war zone. They have dropped everything to win this war.
“And they do know they will win.”
Yet, he says, it’s getting harder and harder to see an end in sight. “Last summer’s offensive did not yield the results they expected,” he acknowledges. “The world has not fought an artillery war with front lines like this since the 1940s. All the old guys who remember it are gone.” Instead, he points out, wars today are fought with fighter jets, long-range bombers and missiles – all weapons that Ukraine lacks, but Russia has in abundance.
He adds, “If you can’t dominate by air, you have to fight on the ground with human beings shooting at each other. And if your artillery has a range of 40 kilometers and the enemy’s has 60, do you know how hard it’s going to be to push them back? They desperately need more military support from the U.S.”
Mark, who served as a first sergeant in the Air Force after attending Concordat College, had developed a growing reputation as a motivational speaker here at home before he heard the call to aid Ukraine. He continues to speak – and to raise his voice in song – on an occasional basis back in the U.S. He has recently addressed groups ranging from regional and national conferences of the Lions and Kiwanis to Alabama school superintendents and California first res ponders. Naturally, the Ukrainian cause comes up when he’s at the podium. But always Ukraine calls him back, despite the terror the war has spread across the embattled nation.
The Minnesota volunteer has felt the same fear that is part of daily life half a world away. “Would you call a missile landing 50 meters away a close call?” he suggests. “We were delivering supplies; a van-load of bandages and tourniquets. That sort of thing has happened more times than I’ve told my mother about.”
But he was headed back, regardless, last Saturday. Flying out of Hector Airport by way of Amsterdam, he landed in Krakow 40 hours later, then traveled overland to an apartment in Kharkiv.
As he departed, he asked that his friends and supporters at home to remember one important thing about his story. “I’m not doing anything any other volunteer hasn’t also been doing. We’re all helping in whatever way. I’m not special.
“If you watch the news from Ukraine, your heart hurts. This is an opportunity for those of us who are free to do something good all over the world.”
For more information on supporting Mark’s A-Team Ukraine, go to, or email him at

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