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"I know that I'm supposed to be here": Minnesota veteran helping Ukrainian refugees flee war

MAPLE GROVE, Minn. -- A Maple Grove man is risking his life in Ukraine working to get refugees to safety.

Michael Hill has been overseas nearly three months, and he doesn't know when he's coming home.

"We're actually out here on the front working with these units, making a difference," Hill said.

He left Minnesota for Kyiv, Ukraine's capital, when a colleague's family there needed help evacuating.

He's well-equipped for the work. Hill's a veteran of two tours in Iraq with the Army and has a decade of experience as a private military contractor, including working with WCCO on past security assignments.

Since the initial mission, Hill's done more evacuations and works with Ukrainian military units. At times, he trains them.

Michael Hill

"The whole country are probably some of the most motivated and patriotic individuals I've ever met in my life," Hill said. "I know that I'm supposed to be here."

Hill says he's seen some of the worst destruction of his life, and has experienced personal tragedy, too. Men he was working with were killed in a landmine explosion right in front of him.

"If there's one thing that I've learned, when it's your time, it's your time," Hill said.

Though infrequent, there have also been moments of levity. Hill's barbecued, swam, and had "Happy Birthday" sung to him in Ukrainian on his birthday.

Hill doesn't know how long his stay in Ukraine will last.

"Every time I think about coming home, something draws me closer and closer," he said.

Hill believes that with support from the West, Ukraine can win the war. The country is asking for tanks, drones and other heavy weapons.

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