Afghan interpreters are still in danger and need America's help
I enlisted in the Army in 2007 as a combat correspondent/videographer. During my time in the Army I traveled all over the world and was allowed to do missions that gave me a sense of purpose and earned me two Emmys, three DOD Military Videographer of the Year awards, and a handful of military decorations.
I also deployed to Afghanistan with the 4th Brigade Combat Team 25th Infantry Division (Airborne) for a year. I covered dozens of different types of stories there including Black Hawk medic evacuations, combat hospitals, combat aviation, engineers and EOD technicians, and K-9 units. But I spent most of my time with the Infantry.
During my time on the ground I worked very closely with an Afghan interpreter (who’ll I’ll leave anonymous because of ongoing concerns for his safety as well as that of his family). He was one of the kindest and most courageous men I’ve ever met, and we couldn’t have done our mission without him.
This interpreter would commute secretly from his village to our base everyday until finally it became so dangerous that he had to move on base with us while at the same time he moved his family to Kabul. He and I weathered many mortar and rocket attacks together in those days.
He had submitted his visa 3 times during his service. His third try was January of last year. He is now unemployed because the base he worked at is closed. He is now in hiding from the Taliban and in grave danger. Every day he has to wait for a visa it gets worse. If he doesn’t get it he will have no choice but to attempt the treacherous journey to India through Pakistan with his family. If he survives the journey it will cost him most of the money he made with the army.
Watch this former Afghan interpreter’s video plea:
There is a government program for giving visas to Afghan nationals, but the process is taking too long and too few visas are being issued. Because of this reality and because I know the power of creating awareness through storytelling, I’m part of a team producing a short narrative film called “The Interpreter,” which has a Kickstarter campaign going on here.
The Interpreter is a short film that functions both as a stand alone piece to assist advocacy efforts, and also as a proof of concept for the feature film currently in development. The Interpreter is being produced by Her Pictures in Los Angeles in association with USC Media Institute for Social Change and Interpret America with most of the film’s proceeds going to the non-profit No One Left Behind. I’m directing the film, Jenna Cavelle wrote the screenplay and is producing, with Michael Taylor executively producing. Our technical advisory team consists of Afghan interpreter, Fahim Fazli, the founders of No One Left Behind, Matt Zeller and Jason Gorey, and the founders of Interpret America, Barry Olsen and Katharine Allen.
The costs of war are multi-fold and unforeseen at the outset, and the plight of Afghan interpreters is one such element. For years these brave men saved the lives of American servicemembers while hazarding their own. America now needs to accelerate the process of doing right by them.
Robert Ham is an Army veteran and a frequent contributor to The Mighty TV, We Are The Mighty’s video channel.