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Veteran Refugee Interpreter from Afghanistan

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February 27, 2017
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In fifteen years of war, the majority of Americans who served overseas did so once or twice. Most often these tours were between seven months and one year. Many in the Army fought for fourteen or fifteen months in Iraq or Afghanistan; these exceptionally long tours took their toll on the psyche of all who experienced them.We came back, us veterans of the Global War on Terror, and we created a subculture of men and women who had fought, bled and felt immense psychological pressures. Some of us never got over the things we saw at war: limbs torn apart, plucking body parts from the poppy fields and collecting them in trash bags, constant paranoia derived from roadside bombs.And we changed, many of us. We grew (or retracted); we went to therapy (or didn't), and we divorced from our significant others (or grew stronger with our partners). All from one deployment, or two, for most of us.But there are those who walked alongside us, weaponless, and put their lives on the line to help coalition forces reach the Afghan people. One such interpreter walked with my squad for seven months in Garmsir District, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Endless Combat for a Combat Interpreter

My journey with him was merely a chapter of his war story. He served with Marines, U.S. Army Special Forces and Slovakian troops for over five years.Five years of foot patrols. Five years of riding in armored vehicles on mine-filled roads. Five years of getting shot at.

Imagine your deployment had continued past when you left. Imagine that, in order to get paid, you had to keep going outside of the wire, risking your life every day. Imagine seeing Afghan soldiers, Marines, and Green Berets wounded and killed in front of you. Day after day after day of combat in the most dangerous country on earth.How would you deal with it? Would you experience PTSD, anxiety, adjustment disorder? Would you take refuge in alcohol, exercise, friendship, painkillers?I think Jack (my interpreter's eponym), is relatively okay, but I haven't seen him in years. He could be suffering the same way that many of us did after the war. But luckily for him, he's leaving Afghanistan, finally, and him and his wife are coming to the United States.To become Americans.After a three-year battle to gain a Special Immigrant Visa, for which I wrote him a recommendation, he has finally broken through the bureacracy. He arrives in March.He is a refugee. He has also contributed more to the United States' safety and defense than the vast majority of its citizens. He comes to the United States with very little to his name except an incredible work ethic and my eternal respect.There are thousands of interpreters out there, just like Jack, who have walked the line with the grunts. In the current hyper-partisan political environment, it is worth remembering that not all refugees are threats to the United States. Some refugees are also combat veterans. And they need our help.The author is a 3-time Marine Corps infantry veteran of the War in Afghanistan. His interpreter arrives in the United States in early March. If you want to help, you can donate to this GoFundMe. The proceeds go directly to Jack.

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