There are no weekends in war. There's no time off. Every day feels like the one before. You find peace in your sleep, until somewhere around the 365th day you get to go home. We spent two years like this, patrolling the Hindu Kush, dividing our time between fighting with the Taliban and talking with locals. Sometimes they were the same people. The only way we knew who was who depended solely on our Afghan interpreters.
Our two interpreters haven't had a weekend in years. They've been at war their whole lives. Just as their parents were. Just as their children will be. The Taliban are currently steamrolling toward Kabul. Toward our interpreters, our friends. They placed a magnetic bomb under one's car. He lost his leg and eye. His children in the back were spared.
These two men have families. Each has a wife. Both have five children. That's fourteen people. Because they worked with US Army they meet the criteria to receive a visa, but without the requisite paper trail required by an out of touch and harder to reach bureaucracy their application remains in limbo. Our word wasn't sufficient. We've been waiting weeks for guidance on how to proceed. In the meantime, the country's folding in on itself.
We haven't used their names yet and won't. You'll see their faces pictured here have been obscured. They're being hunted and we need to help them. We need money. We don't even know how much. If the visa application goes through, they'll need a few thousand just to get passports, documents translated, and pay for travel and accommodations. If Kabul falls in a week, we'll need to buy plane tickets to evacuate fourteen people. Pay for food and shelter until we can get their visas approved. Anything left over will be split equally among the families to resettle. They can't simply wait for refugee status. Not with targets painted on their backs.
"Thank you for your service."
We, Dave and Hank, have heard that hundreds of times. Mostly in earnest. Sometimes a mere platitude. How many times have you said it? What did you mean when you spoke those words? Beneath them is an admission that service members did something most Americans never do. In a land of individuals, they put their life on the line for others.
Our interpreters put their lives on the line for us. They're still putting them up. Their families too. We have to get them all out of there. Our friends are depending on us and we are depending on you--our friends, our family, our colleagues, our neighbors, our fellow citizens.
Then it will be our turn to thank you for your service.
--Henry Hughes & David Roller, once captains, always humans