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Iowan volunteer fighter back from war in Ukraine

Ryan O'Leary is back home from the front line of the Ukraine war.

AUBURN, Iowa — An Iowan is back home, for a little while, from fighting on the front line of the war in Ukraine

Local 5 first spoke to Ryan O'Leary in March. During our first chat with him, it was chaotic. He abruptly ended the Zoom call

"We're getting hit with rockets," O'Leary said in March. "I got to go."

A few minutes later, the call resumed and he said the rockets hit a nearby town. 

During this most recent Zoom call, he was less frantic and was taking the call from back home in Iowa. 

"Being able to sit down and have a conversation with somebody while not getting artillery or hit by Russian aircraft is nice," he said.

O'Leary arrived back in Iowa at the beginning of this month. The first thing he did was eat: ribeye steak with potatoes.

It was food he hadn't eaten since March when he went to Ukraine as a volunteer fighter to battle on the front lines. 

"We fought over near Mykolaiv, near Kherson, so probably about seven cities," O'Leary said. "Seven areas basically, we basically get tasked out to whoever is needing some more specialized help."

The volunteer fighter has battled in Iraq and is a veteran of the Iowa National Guard. 

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He said fighting on the front lines in Ukraine meant constantly seeing death and hearing a barrage of bombs. 

"With artillery, every day is a close call," O'Leary said. "We had a few incidents near the Mykolaiv region that were pretty close. Our building got hit with artillery."

What kept him going wasn't thinking of his family, but his anger. 

"Sounds really bad but I mean, you know some of the stuff that I've seen that the Russians have done is nothing short of a war crime," he added.

He mentioned he is enjoying his time home, but misses Ukraine, his unit and wants to get back there to finish the job he started. 

"My goal now is to get Russia out of Ukraine and if that means sticking it out and fighting for the next 'X' amount of months, so be it."

O'Leary said he will be heading back to Ukraine at the end of June to finish his contract to fight for the country. Once he returns, he has eight months left.

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