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We Support Our Vets. But What About the Afghans Who Helped Them?

February 18, 2014
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We Support Our Vets. But What About the Afghans Who Helped Them?
A local Afghan boy pours tea for soldiers during a joint patrol between the Afghan National Army's 6th Kandak (battalion), 3rd company and the U.S. Army's 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment near Command Outpost Pa'in Kalay on April 3, 2013 in Kandahar Province, Maiwand District, Afghanistan. Andrew Burton/Getty Images
Officials expect many Afghans who helped U.S. troops will begin immigrating to America.

Ahmad Reshad Mushfiq was serving as an interpreter for U.S. troops in Afghanistan when a roadside bomb struck, costing him his legs and killing Jonathan Yelner, a U.S. senior airman. “When I think of the explosion, I don’t think of my legs. I just remember I lost my friend Jonathan Yelner,” Mushfiq told Chris De Benedetti of The Argus. “He left all his comforts in America to help the Afghan people, to make a difference. I can’t forget it.”

Now people in America want to help the 32-year-old Mushfiq. Mushfiq and his wife hid from the Taliban for three years while waiting for immigrant visas, and finally arrived in Fremont, Calif. The Sentinels of Freedom, a San Ramon, Calif.-based organization that helps veterans, has reached out to help Mushfiq begin his new life. He’s the first foreign civilian they’ve worked with, paying the rent on his family’s apartment, furnishing it, and helping him enroll in Ohlone College. Mushfiq also contacted Yelner’s mother, Yolanda Vega, a woman he now calls Mom.

Afghan coalition Executive Director Rona Popal told De Benedetti, “There are a lot of young Afghans working with U.S. forces, and they know they’ll be the first targets when the Taliban comes. That’s why we believe that, after 2014, a lot of Afghans will be coming here.” And many believe that these newcomers, who have served our country at such a personal price, deserve some of the same help that returning veterans do.

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