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I sacrificed myself for my family.
I grew up in Herat, Afghanistan, and spent the first six years of my life in the shadow of the Taliban regime. To this day, whole swathes of my education are missing because of what the Taliban stole from me. So when the United States came to my country to help us, there was no question in my mind: I had to volunteer and do something to build a better future for myself, my brother and my three sisters. .
My brothers in arms have become my family
I joined the United States Army, then the United States Marine Corps as an interpreter. I served seven different infantry battalions for over two and a half years, starting in the Garmser district and pushing up to Marjah, leading the way. During the difficult and exhausting days, I gained brothers and a fellowship that I never knew existed. I saw countless friends shot, injured and even died for this cause, but we had a mission: to drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan. I knew we were making a difference. I was in continuous rotation with different Marines for two and a half years without a break. My father was in the Afghan National Army, and I feel guilty for the double concern we have caused my mother.
I came to the United States and joined a beloved family
After my job in the US military, I knew that staying in Afghanistan was no longer a safe option for me.
After a long process of paperwork and obstacles to overcome, I got an SIV visa. I came to the United States! I was greeted by the first Marine officer I had translated for, David Kinzler. He picked me up from Camp Dwyer in Afghanistan and four years later picked me up from Dulles Airport in Washington DC My brother in arms has become family.
I have lived with Dave and his family for the past seven years, and have watched their family grow and my connection with Dave and Ashley, his wife, has only deepened. I call his wife my sister, his four children are my nieces and nephews, and I thank my lucky stars everyday for the amazing American family I have.
The author with his adoptive family.
Coming from a very family culture, I sincerely believe that my success and my happiness are partly due to being a member of this large and dynamic family. I’ve moved with them twice, and while I might be late for the game, I hope one day – as soon as possible – to have a wife and family close to the Kinzler clan. Their parents are my additional parents; Ashley’s parents were even there when I became a US citizen almost two years ago. As Ashley says, they are “my people”. I am very blessed.
I am desperate to be protected by my family in Afghanistan
I have visited my own parents, three sisters and my brother twice since I immigrated to America seven years ago. Once in November 2020, then again in June / July 2021. Dave and several other Marine buddies were extremely worried about my return home. I wasn’t worried and made it home safely in time for my nephew’s 10th birthday!
I never anticipated what was to come. I knew the troops were withdrawing from Afghanistan. I knew it would cause inconvenience. I even accepted that the Taliban would unfortunately gain a foothold in certain regions of the country. I absolutely did not think that the The Taliban would take control of my town, Herat. It has been a devastating few weeks. I don’t know where to start to express my feelings, but there is a wide range.
At first, I thought my parents and siblings should be safe. They were hidden in the basement of the house. I was alarmed when the Taliban took control of Heratian Prison, which is located perhaps two blocks from my family home. When the Internet started to become more uneven, I became more and more anxious. Then it was as if everything had just exploded. My parents’ neighbor, who worked for the National Security Directorate, was arrested. Just get up and go.
My mind was shaken. My father was a colonel in the ANA [Afghan National Army], and what would stop the Taliban from going after him? My family is fiercely opposed to the Taliban and everything they stand for. My younger sister is in Turkey at the University. My other two sisters are female university graduates. How can I help? How can I keep my family safe? What can I do?
I experienced so many feelings: the anger that the Taliban took control, a deep sadness for the girls and women of Afghanistan, the terror not only for my family but for the safety of all those who helped the Americans or protested the Taliban, and doubt. Was all the fire fighting, patrolling and IED blasts worth it? Did I make a difference? Right now, it feels like we’re all back where we started. I don’t blame the Americans for pulling out after 20 years, and yet I’m also furiously upset and feel like it’s a massive failure on the part of the United States. I am not a political person; I cannot even imagine the heaviness of this situation weighing on the shoulders of our leaders. I don’t have a solution, I don’t have a suggestion, I don’t even know if I have hope right now.
Through uneven communication, help and support from many friends, and crazy logistics, I helped my family get to Kabul. My parents finally accepted that they knew they are not safe because the Taliban continue to find and take people to Herat. The journey from Herat to Kabul is dangerous as it is littered with Taliban checkpoints, not to mention unpaved roads. The total journey is around 15 hours across the country. My family took a bus which left in the middle of the night and since yesterday they have managed to get to Kabul. The question now is: what are they doing in Kabul? They wait. Kabul is their only very, very remote chance to flee the country. They are not eligible for a SIV visa or a P1 or P2 evacuation. They did not help the Americans directly, so as long as they remain in danger, they are also waiting their turn. Kabul airfield is being slammed down and the doors are overrun with people desperate to get their children out. We’ve all seen the videos and photos. It makes me cry for so many reasons.
Humanity is a family
I don’t know what I can do, but I can’t be quiet. Please do what you can and act like your family is in danger too. If you are a person who prays, pray. If you are an activist, help activate any help you can think of. If you are able to donate or open your home, please do so. There’s a show called The United States of Al: it’s about a performer and his life coming to America and living with his Marine family (a bit like Dave’s and my story). To follow them on social networks– they have so many resources that they connect and places where you can donate. Everything is important and makes a difference. Share, like and send positive waves.
While I’m really not sure if I will ever see my family again, I have to remember that during all these hellish past weeks there is some good. There is real goodness in the world. I have received more phone calls, emails, texts and private messages than ever before. Everyone is cherished and loved from the bottom of their hearts. I am now working not only to help my own family, but also all the Afghans we can bring to safety. I look forward to your words, your wisdom and your support.
Thanks for reading the ramblings of an Afghan American clinging to the perspectives of humanity coming together to help save a nation. There is evil in this world, and I have spent my life fighting it, but there is still so much good.