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In Afghanistan, Lucky spent 10 years working with the US military, serving as a translator between US soldiers and the Taliban. He said he saw friends die on their missions and had to leave his wife and child behind for two years when the military transferred him to the United States in 2016.
The 36-year-old, who asked to be identified by the nickname his friends in the US military gave him because of his concerns for the safety of his family members who remained in Afghanistan, said that it had taken two and a half years to get the proper paperwork to get his family to join him in San Diego. He could focus on his family – which grew with the birth of his second daughter earlier this year – and his work as an Amazon performer and truck driver.
He said he finally felt at peace.
Everything changed with just one phone call. In May, Lucky’s brother in Afghanistan told him their mother was in the hospital with kidney problems and her condition was serious. Lucky told his wife they had to go home.
They were returning to a country in turmoil: twenty years after the start of the war in Afghanistan, President Joe Biden announced in April that American troops would be withdrawn from the country by September 11.
The announcement and its effects have prompted more than 70,000 Afghans to flee to the United States since August. Thousands more remain at U.S. military bases, awaiting relocation, due to the time it takes to connect the thousands of evacuees to relocation services such as language training, transportation and assistance. looking for a job.
According to the Associated Press, Texas could host nearly 4,500 Afghan refugees. More than 500, including Lucky and his family, have already come.
According to Refugee Services of Texas, 9,762 Afghan refugees, including Lucky and his family, have arrived in Texas since August.
“I think it’s our responsibility to provide them with this safe haven, to provide them with all the help they need,” said Zeenat Khan, founder of Dallas-based DFW Refugee Outreach Services, who helped more than 500 Afghan families to apply for a job. , medical care and mental health services. “You just have to guide them so that they can stand up. “
Save The Children, a nationwide nonprofit that runs shelters for refugees in El Paso, Fort Bliss and Washington, DC, said it has helped more than 20,000 Afghans. The Fort Bliss Shelter provides families with children with essential supplies such as diapers, cribs, blankets and children’s learning materials.
“Afghan children and their families arrive in America with nothing but clothes on their backs, and many without shoes on their feet. They desperately need our help to start adjusting to their new life here in the United States, ”said Jeanne-Aimée De Marrais, Save the Children’s senior director for US emergencies.
Escape the Taliban
A few days after receiving the phone call, Lucky and his family flew to Kabul, the Afghan capital. At the hospital, Lucky said, his mother’s completion was pale and waxy. He was shocked at the severity of his condition.
Doctors told her that her mother had to travel to neighboring India to receive proper treatment. But the Indian Embassy was not accepting medical visa interviews due to COVID-19, so Lucky and his family had to stay longer than planned.
Months passed and her mother’s condition worsened, as did Afghanistan. US military troops were withdrawn and the Taliban quickly took control of the country, invading villages and killing those who opposed them.
On August 13, Lucky said he received a brief phone call from his 4-year-old niece in Orgun, a village 477 kilometers from Kabul. She cried. “They are going to come and kill us all,” she said. Shortly after, the phone call was cut off.
The call alarmed Lucky, who wanted to go to Orgun and see his niece and other brother. Maybe he could help them get to America too, he thought.
“No, it’s too dangerous. The Taliban will be looking for you, ”Lucky’s wife said.
He went there anyway and arrived at his brother’s house to find everyone safe and sound. But soon after his arrival, the Taliban surrounded the village and refused to let anyone in or out.
Lucky knew that if the Taliban caught him and found out that he had worked with the US military, they would kill him and possibly his family as well. Suddenly he had an idea: find a truck and dress up as a truck driver. Lucky said he contacted a friend and asked him to borrow his truck.
When Lucky reached his village gate, he said, a Taliban soldier stopped him and asked him to get out of the truck.
He hasn’t moved a muscle. Lucky could hear his own heartbeat and the footsteps of the approaching Taliban soldiers. Lucky’s heart began to beat faster, but he had to keep his cool.
Lucky said he did his best to look like a truck driver – his clothes were dirty and unwashed. The soldier let him pass.
Long trip to Texas
After returning to Kabul, Lucky said he made another phone call to a friend of his in the US military and asked if he could help his family on the plane back to the States- United.
His friend said he could only help Lucky, his wife and two daughters. He would have to abandon his mother and brother because they did not have the necessary documents to come to the United States.
With his brother’s blessing, Lucky and his family left that same night with nothing but the clothes they were wearing. Once at Kabul airport, Lucky said, it looked like a war zone: thousands of people pushed each other while trying to board military planes while guns and bombs were exploding around the airport.
Lucky said he saw children shot, mothers pushed to the ground. He and his wife held their children tightly as they made their way through the crowds. Their children burst into tears, begging to return home.
“I couldn’t go on anymore. I just gave up and said it wasn’t possible, ”Lucky said.
After 3 p.m. at the terminal, Lucky called his friend back and explained his situation to him. The friend said he would find another plane to get them out.
Around midnight, Lucky and his family went to another terminal at the same airport and waited until the next day to board the plane. First, they traveled to Qatar, where he said they spent 10 to 12 days in the airport terminal with little or no food or water before another military plane arrived. takes them to Germany.
Eventually, Lucky and his family were able to arrange a flight to Texas, where Lucky’s brother-in-law lived.
In August, Lucky and his family relocated to Fort Worth with his brother. Within weeks, Lucky said, he was able to get a job as a truck driver. But after their experience in Afghanistan, his children got scared every time he left home, thinking he wouldn’t come back, Lucky said.
So he decided to pursue other work.
On December 1, Lucky and two Afghan friends opened the Afghan Halal Market Texas in Fort Worth, a food store for Afghan refugees who struggle to find affordable Afghan halal food in Texas. It’s close to his brother’s house, so he can come home during the day and spend time with his family.
“I am happy to help these new Afghan refugees who are struggling because there are all the new people who have come here with nothing, without clothes,” he said. “They left everything in Afghanistan, so I’m trying to help them with what I can do.