Most college students who go abroad spend their first year in Paris, London, Madrid or some other luxurious international capital.
However, 28-year-old Alexis Anttila, a Dallas biology student attending Columbia University in New York City, has traded the comfort of an Ivy League classroom for fighting on the front lines in Ukraine.
“I decided to go to Ukraine first when I saw 40 kilometers of tanks rolling towards Kiev,” Anttila explained. “Something in me said, ‘I have to go.’ As an American, the only thing I value most are my freedoms, and the Ukrainian people are currently having their freedoms trampled on by the Russians. And I felt inspired to do something about it.”
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That something turned out to be four tours of battlefield duty, including serving as a combat medic, helping load shells for howitzers, and firing anti-tank weapons like javelins and NLAWs. She was injured last year when her vehicle hit a land mine and helped save the life of an injured fellow Ukrainian.
“We were about 10-15 kilometers behind enemy lines on a reconnaissance mission when our vehicle hit an anti-tank mine,” he said. The passenger in the front passenger seat was seriously injured and had to have his left leg amputated. “We were able to get him out of the vehicle, put a tourniquet on him and thankfully everyone else in the vehicle was fine with the exception of some minor injuries and small shrapnel wounds,” Anttila said.
The New York-based non-profit group Razom for Ukraine, which has provided war and humanitarian aid to the besieged country, helped coordinate the surgery that saved the man’s life. Razom says part of his mission is “to support a decisive Ukrainian victory, as this is a core security interest of the United States and its allies.”
“Razom has supplied hundreds of tons of tactical medical kits, hospital supplies, medicines and communications equipment,” says the group, which notes that support for Ukraine remains very strong in Washington, DC
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“Members of both sides of the aisle — Republicans and Democrats — are deeply and demonstrably committed to Ukraine’s victory … Lonely or fringe voices may be loud, but not necessarily persuasive. American leaders of both political parties are standing making great efforts to see that Ukraine is victorious in the end,” Razom noted on his website.
Anttila said she’s not afraid when she’s on a mission, and while her parents in Texas worry about her, she said they understand her dedication to helping the Ukrainian people defeat Vladimir Putin.
“Putin is scared. He’s sitting in Moscow and dishing out orders, but he doesn’t seem to understand, or at least he doesn’t seem to care, how he’s actually on the front line,” he said.
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Anttila has a message for Putin.
“Get out of Ukraine, stop trampling on people’s freedoms, respect the sovereignty of the Ukrainian people and just do the next right thing,” he urged.
Anttila added that he intends to return to Ukraine until Putin’s forces are finally banned.