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‘I am happy to be in Ukraine doing this’

Fargo man aiding soldiers and citizens in the invaded Eastern European country

By Scott Thoma

Lindquist belts out a Frank Sinatra song to the troops in the trenches in eastern Ukraine. Contributed photo

Former U.S. Navy veteran Mark Lindquist of Fargo, who grew up on a farm in Ortonville, decided to try and enlist with the Ukrainian military two years ago to help fend off Russia’s invasion. His enlistment attempt was denied, so he did the next best thing he could to help Ukraine soldiers and citizens.

“I volunteered to bring in supplies to aid their troops and the people who live there,” he said. “Because people in North Dakota and Minnesota know me from when I lived there and found out what I was doing to help people in Ukraine, it wasn’t hard to raise money and acquire supplies.”

Lindquist is well known around the country for his motivational speaking appearances, as well as his strong singing voice.

Not only has he volunteered to help raise money and deliver necessary medical and food supplies, he also entertains the Ukrainian troops.

“I’ve sung Frank Sinatra songs in the trenches,” he said with a laugh. “They know the Sinatra songs like ‘New York, New York’ and ‘My Way.’ They don’t know all the words, but they recognize the songs.”

Lindquist takes a selfie in front of the Donetsk Oblast (Region) sign, which is the entrance to the Donbas region in far eastern Ukraine. Contributed photo

Lindquist, who has been in Ukraine since April 5, 2022, returns to the United States five or six times a year to raise money, garner more supplies to assist the Ukraine troops and civilians, and also to perform.   

“People in the United States want to help these people,” Lindquist said. “I have never had any trouble getting donated funds or supplies for the people of Ukraine.”

Lindquist was born in Seoul, South Korea, and was adopted by Gordon and Diane Lindquist of Ortonville. After graduating from high school there, Lindquist attended Concordia College in Moorhead and lived in Fargo.

While in college, Lindquist understood his purpose in life.

“I’ve always wanted to help others in need,” he said. “So, I joined the AmeriCorps after college and spent two years in Washington D.C. My parents were in the Peace Corps and that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to do this, too.”

AmeriCorps is an independent agency of the United States government that engages more than five million Americans in service through a variety of volunteer work programs in many sectors.

Mark Lindquist, right, has been able to acquire combat first aid kits through donations from Americans. He is shown here with a Ukrainian soldier just 15 miles away from the front lines in eastern Ukraine. Contributed Photo

When he was 26, Lindquist joined the United States Air Force as an intelligence analyst and was stationed in Honolulu, HI. 

During the final year of his six years of active duty, Lindquist became involved in the entertainment department because of his singing prowess.

“There were 34 of us chosen to that department in 2011,” he said. “We would go and entertain other Air Force personnel like Bob Hope used to do. I was emcee of the shows and we traveled to 38 states and 22 countries.”

In 2012, he left the military and went into business for himself as a motivational speaker and entertainer.

“I speak to employees of big companies like Walmart, McDonalds and Starbucks at their annual conferences,” he said. “I’ve been doing 100 speaking or singing events for the past 12 years.”

Lindquist has been singing the National Anthem for NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB teams, including an invitation by the Minnesota Vikings to sing for the 200th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner in 2014.

On Feb. 24, 2022, a call was sent out to assist the people and troops of Ukraine during the Russian invasion. Lindquist knew in his heart that he must answer that call.

“I saw a YouTube video where a former British soldier said he was able to volunteer because he was 40 years old, single and had a flexible job,” Lindquist said. “Since I was 40, single and had a flexible job, I was also able to do this. So, I called my buddies and told them ‘We’ve got to do something.’ This wasn’t a military call, it was a call for help with supplies and other things.”

Using his own money, Lindquist purchased deployment gear online.

Mark Lindquist, left, is shown giving tourniquets to the Ukrainian military that were donated through funds he generated from Americans. Contributed photo

“I ordered body armor, helmets, camouflage clothing, survival gear, and some other things,” he explained. 

Lindquist had never been to Ukraine before. He signed up to join the Ukrainian Army, but was turned down because he wasn’t from there. So, with eight million people fleeing the country with little or no help, he decided to become a volunteer and help in other ways.

“I would talk to the people and the troops to see what they needed,” Lindquist said. “They had no basic medical supplies, no tourniquets, no bandages, no nothing. I became a logistics manager and was able to get $4 million worth of supplies from American people and companies and delivered them to the people in Ukraine.”

Lindquist spent some time in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, although he noted it had become a “ghost town” following Russian forces launching their invasion and the majority of the citizens fleeing.

Lindquist has spent the majority of his time in Kharkiv, which was the site of heavy fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces.

“The economy there has been reduced by one third in the last two years,” said Lindquist. “They are at the Great Depression level. We are trying to help businesses, but we can only do so much.”

While many of the original 10,000-plus volunteers have gone back to their home countries, Lindquist is among a few thousand who remain in Ukraine to continue to help.

Back home in America, Lindquist performs the National Anthem for professional sports teams, including this photo at a Thursday Night Chicago Bears football game in 2023. Contributed photo

“I have made too many friends here, both military and civilian, to leave them now,” he said. “I have as many friends here as I have in America. They are great hard-working and trustworthy people. I will stay here and help until they don’t need me anymore. Which basically means until the conflict is over. I have no regrets at all. I am happy to in Ukraine doing this.”

Many of the people Lindquist has befriended in Ukraine refer to him as the “Happy American.”

Lindquist pointed out that when he returns home five or six times a year and tells people what he is doing in Ukraine, many of them are surprised.

“Sadly, Ukraine has fallen off the radar screen with a lot of Americans,” he said. “A lot of people say to me ‘Is that still going on?’ It’s the largest ground war in Europe since World War II and I encourage people to remember that.”

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