Western Minnesota U.S. House candidate suspends campaign to go fight for Ukraine or help region's refugees
Mark J. Lindquist, an Air Force veteran who has gained acclaim for performing "The National Anthem" at pro and college sporting events, says he's applied to join the Territorial Defense of Ukraine and is awaiting an interview from that country’s embassy.
MOORHEAD — Mark Lindquist was just eight months old and living in an orphanage in Seoul, South Korea, when he was adopted by Gordon and Diane Lindquist and given a new home and new life in Ortonville, Minn.
The fact that Lindquist was given a second chance at life is one reason why the Moorhead man feels such a tug of empathy for all the children and babies orphaned by Russia’s assault on Ukraine.
In fact, Lindquist has been so affected by the news of war that, at age 40, he intends to travel to the volatile region to fight alongside Ukrainians, if necessary, against Russian efforts to occupy the former Soviet republic.
Lindquist, an Air Force veteran, says he has submitted the required application to join the Territorial Defense of Ukraine and is awaiting an interview from that country’s embassy. He plans to fly out of Fargo March 29 and into Warsaw, Poland, where he’ll report as directed by Ukrainian officials to the border. If he isn’t granted military privileges, Lindquist says he will conduct humanitarian missions, such as shuttling refugees out of the country and into safety.
In a Facebook post, which had attracted over 500 likes as of Saturday, Lindquist wrote: “There are many new orphans created by this conflict and as a person who started life out in an orphanage … I feel called to support these Ukrainian orphans to give the same chance at life I was given. Every Ukrainian we can get out of the country is one more the Russians can’t bomb.”
Lindquist has started a GoFundMe in efforts to raise $100,000 for an armored car or van to do transports. He also has ordered a deployment kit — complete with 30 days of MREs and body armor — off Amazon.
“I tell people my arms dealer is Jeff Bezos,” Lindquist quips, offsetting with humor the understandable nerves that accompany the prospect of entering a war zone.
Charismatic and confident, Lindquist’s “day job” normally involves working as an entertainer, success coach and motivational speaker. He’s also become known for his soaring tenor voice while performing “The National Anthem” for massive crowds at NFL games and even the World Series. More recently, Lindquist became a western Minnesota Seventh Congressional District candidate, although he announced this past weekend he was suspending his campaign, leaving no announced Democrat candidates in the district.
“I don’t even want to think about it right now,” Lindquist told The Forum.
Back in 2006, fueled by 9/11-inspired patriotism, the idealistic young man enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served for six years. While his work as an intelligence analyst and USO entertainer didn’t require direct combat, he believes Ukraine needs people with professional military training right now.
“Now that I see they’re recruiting civilians, who were accountants and teachers and daycare providers last week, and now they have AK-47s in their hands, I think to myself that we, as American military professionals, would have some role in helping to train that civilian militia or organize civilians into a military unit with good order and discipline and a chain of command.”
I can make plans to go out and help people or I could sit on my couch and tweet about it.
Lindquist says he also has felt inspired to take action after witnessing the courage of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has stood strong and refused to flee the country. “He is showing us what true leadership looks like,” Lindquist says.
So when Zelenskyy put out a call for an international legion of volunteers and veterans to join in the fight, Lindquist felt compelled to answer.
“The last time we saw international brigades was the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s ,” he says. “In my lifetime, I have never seen a sovereign nation be attacked by a world super-power and the leader of that sovereign nation put a call out to all former veterans to join a foreign legion, what they call the Territorial Defense of the Ukraine. That is unique in this time in history.”
And Lindquist hopes that his decision to join the fight might inspire others to do the same.
He himself made the decision after watching a YouTube interview with a British war vet who had joined the international brigade.
The Englishman, who was in his 40s, single, didn’t have kids, was able-bodied and had a flexible job, told the interviewer, “I see what’s going on and how can I not help?”
In that moment, Lindquist realized he was in the same boat. “I was out of excuses,” he says. “I can make plans to go out and help people or I could sit on my couch and tweet about it.”
Even so, Lindquist realizes he will be entering a military environment unlike anything he’s ever experienced. “Once you join a foreign legion, all bets are off,” he says. “You don’t have the comfort and safety of the American military. You don’t have a military base to go to. You don’t have a chain of command. A conflict like this attracts mercenaries with no loyalty. You have to buy your own deployment gear … The orders are coming from myself. That’s very unique to a military member.”
So as not to feel completely alone in a strange land, Lindquist is using this time to network with other veterans, humanitarians and residents of Poland and Ukraine who can provide guidance and connections, if needed. “You need ‘friendlies’ at times like this,” he says.
Through his social media contacts with others who plan to join the Territorial Defense, Lindquist has learned that most who have submitted applications haven’t yet advanced to the next step — a phone interview with the secretary of defense. This is understandable, he adds, as the Ukrainian embassy and government are clearly overwhelmed right now.
Once that hurdle is cleared, international brigade members are expected to head to one of two border crossings in Poland, where they will be given orders. Lindquist says they've been told they will be provided with weapons.
But he also has heard through the grapevine that he may never even make it to the frontlines.
“What I’m hearing is if you don’t have combat experience, they’re seeing you as a liability,” he says. “I respect that and will follow their orders if they don’t accept me.”
In that case, Lindquist is ready to step into a humanitarian role, helping to extract as many refugees from Ukraine and into safety as he can. He says many vets in the region are already doing this.
Lindquist’s GoFundMe would go toward purchasing either an armored car or a Sprinter van to help transport those whose health issues make it difficult to use mass transport. If he doesn't receive enough to purchase a vehicle, Lindquist writes in his GoFundMe post that he will use funds to buy basic hygiene and emergency supplies for the estimated 3 million refugees so far.
He’s also made contact with people in over a dozen cities throughout Ukraine and has started compiling a list of those who need supplies, support or extraction.
In fact, he hopes more Americans will join him in lending a hand, even if that means organizing diaper drives or supply backpacks for the millions who have found themselves suddenly without a home.
And he’s hoping the fact that he’s a familiar face to people throughout the region will help encourage local citizens to give. “I figure if I’m over there and people in the Red River Valley who know and trust me will see that as their lifeline to help directly,” he says. “Then they can know their money isn’t going to a fraudulent place.”
Still showing glimpses of that young idealist who enlisted in the military 16 years ago, Lindquist believes this latest conflict — for all the suffering and horror it has caused — has brought Americans closer together than they’ve felt since post-9/11.
“It’s after two years or however many years of a tumultuous American life … what a time to find an issue that unites us. Isn’t that exactly what we’ve been needing as an American society, after being at each others throats?”
Lindquist and his friends will continue to update the public on his Ukrainian efforts via his Facebook page at
or via YouTube.
Those who wish to donate can go to https://www.gofundme.com/f/US-Veteran-Headed-to-Ukraine?member=18087935
He can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
(don’t forget the “j.”).