By Ray Lenarcic

In August, I wrote an article about Afghan interpreters and how my daughter Carrie and a group of aging warriors at a local VFW were working with the refugee organization IRIS to sponsor a family (i.e., be a resettlement community group). The Herkimer County Hunger Coalition, Greater Herkimer Lions Club, and individual donors helped raise the money necessary for the sponsorship. After escaping and enduring months in Pakistan, having to cut through too much red tape, the family finally made it to their promised land.

Before continuing, some necessary background information.

During the war in Afghanistan, Afghan interpreters were often the difference between life and death for our troops. An estimated 50,000 of the former put their lives on the line for the red, white, and blue. In the process, nearly 300 were killed. They paid the ultimate price for freedom-freedom from a brutal oppressor (Taliban) and for better lives for their women and children; better lives which included educational opportunities for the latter and an improved standard of living for everyone. The U.S. government repaid them for their sacrifices by abandoning them.

Their value cannot be underestimated. The son of a neighbor who fought in that ill-advised conflict told me that every time he went up in a Blackhawk (helicopter) a translator was by his side-and he couldn’t have gone up without him. When their duties were over, they suffered the same aftereffects (e.g., PTSD) as our boys. What follows are in Carrie’s words: “The man I met had been embedded for nearly 20 years, as an interpreter for generals, Army, Navy Seals and more. He called himself “the tongue” for his American friends and endured countless traumatic events, including witnessing the tragic deaths of Americans he called his brothers. As a result of his work, the Taliban has been hunting him and his family for three years, and he has been forced to hide in terror.” (Why specific info has not been included in this article)

Since their recent arrival, the family has been blessed to have the incredible support of the VFW and a cadre of dedicated volunteers. Again, in Carrie’s words: “The group is organized into committees that help with documents, setting the children up for education, healthcare assistance, housing, employment, English lessons, and cultural outings/recreation. In addition to dedicated VFW members who have been visiting the family daily to assist with getting settled, members of local religious organizations, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim, have provided food, clothing, love, and support to the family. It truly is the best kind of diplomacy. While the family has only been here a couple of weeks, all of the nearly fifty members of the group have come to adore the family.”

Carrie continues: “Our newly arrived Afghan friends are eager to work, learn, and contribute to American society. One of the most powerful moments was when one of the volunteers brought the children to the local library and sat on the floor teaching English to the three daughters, all of whom would be forbidden to learn publicly in Afghanistan. We are currently working to help the dad secure a car, as the family arrived with no money, and the dad will need to get a minimum-wage job near their home (despite his advanced degree) because he doesn’t have transportation. A care will open so many more opportunities for this family.”

So, how about helping to raise the bucks necessary to purchase a second-hand vehicle? After all, he has done for this country, we can show some appreciation by making a donation, and I’d like to think that area VFWs and American Legions would be more than willing to support this cause. The Herkimer County Hunger Coalition has graciously accepted to serve as the 501C3 representative. Checks should be made out to HCHC-PO Box 622-Herkimer, N.Y. 13350. HCHC Director Kelly Brown stated, “Given all he has done for us, this is the least we can do for him and his family.

When Kay and I met the family, we shook hands with the father. The mother did so with Kay, but custom prevented her from shaking mine. Her broad smile sufficed. Suddenly, I felt a little hand taking mine. The three-year-old girl. Her gesture spoke volumes. She was an American now.