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WESTON, Mo. — Weston, Missouri resident Paul Schwennesen is in Ukraine, using his knowledge and skills as a military veteran with a deployment to Afghanistan to help fend off the Russian invasion.

“Just something kind of built up inside of me, particularly about the kids and families having to be evacuated from this menace coming in from the east,” Schwennesen said.

He went in through Poland, learning how the supply chain was supporting fighters closer to the front lines. His goal was to help however he could, which took him to the capital city of Kyiv when talking to FOX4.

“I’m hearing it now,” Schwennesen said, referring to shelling. “The city’s rumbling. I’m in the middle of Kyiv.”

Schwennesen said the active fighting is still mostly in the distance and he’d like to keep it that way, instead trying to connect other people with vehicles, communications equipment, and tactical gear.

“I can shoot my way out of a bad situation but I’m not gunning to shoot my way into one,” said Schwennesen.

Instead, he linked up with a loose network of contacts and other soldiers in the region that he started talking before he even left the United States. That gave him a network of places to stay and people to help that made it easier for him to be helpful even though he isn’t part of a larger organized effort.

Ukranian officials claim tens of thousands of foreign fighters like Schwennesen are applying to join their side of the fight by joining the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine.

Schwennesen admits he didn’t feel the same call to go to other conflict regions on his own, but Russia’s invasion was different.

“It’s the European-ness of it,” said Schwennesen. “We’re brought up on World War II movies and it’s closer to home in many cultural ways, whether it’s right or wrong, that’s just a fact of life.”

That’s also a big part of the reason Schwennesen’s wife, Benthe Warnaar-Schwennesen, is helping out from their Weston, Missouri home.

“They’re really fighting for their democracy,” said Warnaar-Schwennesen. “So I think that’s why so many people from all around the world are going there.”

She’s been scouring online forums, already connecting refugee families with other people who can help them, and occasionally, trying to link Paul up with people he can reach.

“Paul will aks me, ‘I’m driving from A to B, is there anybody that needs help during this ride,” said Warnaar-Schwennesen.

So far, their fundraising effort has brought in more than $20,000 that has been used for transportation and equipment to keep people safe.

If you’d like to follow Paul’s journey or help, you can find more information here.