Never a soldier, this NH resident plans to go to Ukraine and fight the Russians

  • Jacob Doyle plays with his dog Ares in the backyard of his Franklin home on Wednesday, March 16, 2020 in the outfit that he will bring to Poland later this month. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Jacob Doyle plays with his dog Ares in the backyard of his Franklin home on Wednesday, March 16, 2020 in the outfit that he will bring to Poland later this month. Concord Monitor — GEOFF FORESTER

  • Emily Lowe helps Jacob Doyle with some of the straps for the backpack he got with other equipment he plans to bring to Poland when he leaves later this month. Concord Monitor — GEOFF FORESTER

  • Jacob Doyle plays with his dog Ares in the backyard of his Franklin home on Wednesday, March 16, 2020 in the outfit that he will bring to Poland later this month. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Jacob Doyle in the backyard of his Franklin home on Wednesday, March 16, 2020 in the outfit that he will bring to Poland later this month. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Emily Lowe with her fiance Jacob Doyle in the backyard of his Franklin home on Wednesday, March 16, 2022. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Jacob Doyle of Franklin and his finance, Emily Lowe, pose in front of iron bars at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington D.C. Courtesy photograph

Concord Monitor
Published: 3/20/2022 8:43:02 AM
Modified: 3/20/2022 8:42:13 AM

Emily Lowe squeezed her fiance’s hand at their kitchen table in Franklin, N.H., mindful that she’ll have to loosen her grip soon.

This week, in fact, if all goes as planned.

Jacob Doyle’s mother, Sandi Simpson, was seated to his left, wrapping him in a sandwich of emotions. Pride. Fear.

That’s the juggling act Doyle’s two favorite women in the world are trying to master. Just a few weeks after hearing that Doyle, 25, once an electric lineman clearing power lines from trees, with absolutely no military experience, plans to fly to Eastern Europe later this month to do whatever he can to help Ukraine in its war with Russia.

“Bittersweet,” said Lowe, 19, when asked for her feelings as Doyle’s potential departure draws nearer. “I’m proud of him and I support him, but I wish we had more time to prepare. And I wish he wasn’t going at all.”

Doyle has yet to buy his one-way ticket to Poland — a NATO member that borders Ukraine on its west side. He’d like to leave on Thursday.

He’s scrambling to prepare for something that isn’t included in any manual. He’s part of a worldwide movement, an open invitation, to help Ukraine remain a democratic country, stopping it from falling under Moscow’s influence and installing a puppet government.

Ukraine wants soldiers, experienced fighters among its supporters, willing to sacrifice so much. Doyle filled out what he called a “medical personnel application” at the Ukrainian Embassy earlier this month in Washington, D.C.

“I’m not just looking (to fight),” Doyle said. “I want to help those people as best I can. I don’t care if I’m going out with backpacks full of Band-Aids.”

He’s delaying his wedding to Lowe. Doyle, Lowe and Simpson know this is dangerous, a war with Russian ground troops, who command artillery fire and air superiority.

Doyle said his “blood started to boil” when he first heard that the Russians were on the move. He said he’s always wanted to join the military and feels compelled to join the fight in Eastern Europe.

“In my opinion, it’s an opportunity where I can excel in life and where, if I can save someone else, I’m going to jump in,” Doyle said. “This was something where a lot of people are getting hurt over there, and they don’t deserve it. Even if I come home in a box, it’s just something that I have to do.”

Doyle never hesitated when mentioning the word “box,” and the ladies surrounding him never winced, never shook their heads, never showed any expression that indicated they misunderstood.

“His family looked at him like, ‘What the hell are you talking about?’ ” Lowe said. “I don’t like it, but he thought what was happening (in Ukraine) was morally wrong. I know he might not be coming home, or he may not come home alive. I did the research. It’s not looking that great over there.”

By now, Doyle’s plans are clear.

“She thought I was bull-crapping when I told her,” said Doyle, referring to his mother. “And then I went to the (Ukrainian Embassy in Washington) and it really hit her, and she knew this was not a joke. She does a good job of holding her composure. I know she is hurting.”

So is Lowe. She’s known Doyle for about a decade, but it was only a year or so ago that the pair turned into an item. Doyle says he always had a thing for Lowe.

“I thought there was good chemistry,” he said.

He lives with his mom and Lowe in Franklin. He’s small in stature, about 5-foot-4, 135 pounds. He says he has very little body fat. One look at him, and you know he’s telling the truth. His smile is blinding. He called his interviewer “friend” throughout the morning.

He called himself an adrenaline junkie, a fearless risk-taker who says he’s gotten multiple tickets for driving his motorcycle way too fast.

He and Simpson told stories of cops spotting him speeding and following this daredevil back to his house before issuing him a ticket. He said he’s paid thousands of dollars in fines for his Evil Knievel act through the years before he smartened up.

“I’ve come to the realization that it’s best for me not to get hurt riding my motorcycle,” he said.

He also recovered from a fall while working as a lineman, high in the air, standing in a bucket truck in New York state. A power surge knocked him from the bucket, a 35-foot fall.

He spent four months in a wheelchair. He relearned how to talk, saying “yeah” and nothing else for weeks, despite the fact that his brain was healthy enough to hear full sentences with clarity.

Their house needed ramps. The little guy with the giant spirit needed to fight. Doctors said he might never work again. He’s fine now, though.

“Once he sees something in his head and he gets that tunnel vision, there’s nothing else but what’s at the end of the tunnel,” Simpson said. “Someone says, ‘You can’t do this,’ and he says, ‘Challenge accepted.’ ”

Lowe, mindful that Doyle was contemplating fighting in Ukraine, officially saw those wheels in motion for the first time after she got home from work and saw her fiance sitting at the kitchen table, talking on the phone to someone from the Ukrainian Embassy.

There’s a role for him somewhere, they told him.

“I always believed him,” Lowe said, “but I never thought he would go unless things escalated more.”

They had escalated enough. Doyle and Lowe nixed their marriage plans for his Ukraine plans. They couldn’t find anyone to issue a marriage license at city hall in Franklin two weeks ago before leaving for the embassy.

They might get married this week before he leaves. Instead of looking for a wedding dress, Lowe and Simpson have been shopping for military gear.

Thanks to the women in his life, Doyle will have a tactical belt, a vest, a helmet, night-vision goggles, boots, jackets, snow pants, socks and T-shirts.

Ukraine cares nothing for the structured professionalism and snappy uniforms shown by the Russians. Ukraine needs volunteers.

Doyle hopes to leave Thursday. Support from home will certainly help clear his mind, help focus on his work, whatever that may be.

“I stand by my children 10,000%,” Simpson said. “He’s a very smart man.”

Doyle has his own questions to answer. Fight the Russians or build a life with Emily.

Doyle wants both. The couple is still hopeful that they can get married before Doyle flies out.

“Maybe next week, if we have time and we could find someone to do it,” Lowe said. “If not, we’ll just have to wait until he comes back.”

There’s no return date documented anywhere. This is not an official tour of duty. These are freelance fighters, joining their outgunned Ukrainian allies with no official swearing-in ceremony.

What happens if Russia steps up its attacks in Ukraine, leading to catastrophic casualties for these foreign volunteers?

Lowe and Doyle squeezed hands. Simpson sat at the table and kept her game-face on.

Doyle said it’s a calling. A calling that has a profound effect on those closest to him.

“Yes, I do feel guilty about that,” Doyle said. “They both know it could be the last time they see me. But they also know that I have to do this. I have to.”

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