(FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – U.S. troops will be out of Afghanistan by the end of August. Now, there’s a big push to make sure the people who risked their lives to help U.S. troops will make it to safety as well. It’s a big challenge in a short amount of time.
Now, a local man is helping to make sure those Afghan interpreters can make it out alive.
“I used to work with the U.S. Army Special Forces for 14 years,” Ziaulhaq Ghafoori told FOX 46.
Ghafoori was a translator for U.S. troops in Afghanistan. He received a Purple Heart while battling alongside them against forces in Shok Valley.
“We were surrounded by 200 people,” he said. “I lost my best friend down there not even a foot far from me.”
Now, as the U.S. evacuates troops from the region, their interpreters are worried they were sold empty promises.
“I’m here to support all those guys because I know their pain. I know all the stuff they have done. They deserve to be here,” Ghafoori said.
Ghafoori, who is now a U.S. citizen, started a non-profit called Interpreting Freedom Foundation. Through it, he hopes to help with Special Immigrant Visas, and advocate for the interpreters’ needs.
“They slept on dirt floors next to each other for four months,” said Sarah Verardo with The Independence Fund. “We owe these men and women who have risked so much for their country and ours, everything we have and to really fold them into the fabric of America that we have this deep love and appreciation for our Military.”
Verardo’s husband, retired Army Sergeant Michael Verardo, suffered catastrophic injuries in Afghanistan ten years ago. She still keeps in touch with his interpreter, who is now safely in America.
Right now, the focus is on the translators, but there are 18,000 Afghan Nationals who helped U.S. troops during the 20-year war waiting for Special Immigrant Visas.
“Every single minute that we are wasting, we are losing those Afghans that they took a bullet for both countries,” Ghafoori said.