I want to take this opportunity to thank NOLB for helping me in providing services to a very deserving Afghan former interpreter name Waheed who arrived in Omaha, NE about two weeks ago.
Waheed had worked as an interpreter since 2003 and had been involved in many combat operations in Kandahar, Jalalabad, Bagram, Gazni and several other areas. He survived at least one IED (the Humvee he was riding in got blown up) and was so well trusted by the troops with whom he served that he carried a weapon while on patrol. He is very intelligent and is fiercely loyal to the United States and our mission in Afghanistan.
Waheed’s wife is eight months pregnant and they have a three year old daughter. When his visa was approved, he was afraid that his wife would give birth before they came to the U.S. and that having this additional child might complicate matters and delay his departure, so he used what little money he had saved and bought tickets for himself and his wife and daughter. He came to Omaha because he had a friend who was also a former interpreter who lived here. Because he arrived before the State Department had made his travel arrangements and notified the relief agency who handles newly arriving SIV’s here in Omaha, he was without services when he arrived. He had a little money so with the help of his Afghan friend here, he rented an apartment.
Waheed is tremendously grateful to be here and he and his wife are not the type of people to complain, but I found out by talking to Waheed, that he did not have a bed nor any furniture in his apartment. He, his eight months pregnant wife, and three year old daughter have been sleeping on the floor of their apartment. They had been given a few plates, pots and pans and glasses as well as blankets and towels by their Afghan friends, but otherwise were living in their apartment without even a chair.
On Saturday November 12, when I learned of Waheed’s situation, I called NOLB HQ and asked if there was anything we could do the at least get them a bed because of his wife being pregnant. HQ immediately told me to go and get him a bed and that NOLB would reimburse me for it. I then went to Omaha (about 50 miles away) and picked up Waheed and we drove to Nebraska Furniture Mart to look for a bed. As soon as we walked in, I approached an employee and asked him to direct us to the close-out section because I was told you can get a good deal on new but discontinued items there. I introduced myself and Waheed. He introduced himself as Mike Roy, the store manager. As I began to tell him that Waheed was a former interpreter who had just arrived, Mike reached out and shook Waheed’s hand and thanked him for his service. Mike said he knew all about what interpreters do because his brother had just retired from the Army after 33 years and he served three tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Mike then took out a paper and wrote his name and number on it and told us to tell whoever waited on us to call him before they rung up the sale.
Waheed picked out a mattress, box spring and frame and when we went to pay for it, Mike knocked $70 off the price and told me to bring any interpreters who needed help to him and he would help them. This small act of kindness moved Waheed to tears.
That night he sent me the following text message: “Thanks David Sir. I don’t have much words to appreciate your help. More importantly your kindness and the kind of fabulous human being you are. I had never thought that someone would come from nowhere and help in such situation, you remind me that humanity still exists. Believe me it’s not only about this mattress but the thing that matters to me is your kindness and prospect of helping those who are in need. We have set the bed and mattress in my room. Me and family thanks you from the core of our hearts. May you live longer in a prosperous life. And I hope one day I would be like you and help.”
None of this would have been possible without NOLB. Our ability to respond quickly – in fact, in a matter of minutes – made the difference. To those of us who have so much, we take a lot for granted and the biggest give Waheed and his wife got, was not the $600 bed but the knowledge that with all the fear and anxiety of coming to a strange land, an organization of regular guys showed them that the people of United States truly appreciate their contribution to the safety of all Americans.
This week Waheed will be given another gift that he doesn’t know about. Finding jobs in Omaha is not that hard, but commuting to work is – especially without a car of one’s own. Two weeks ago, I went to Sid Dillon Motors in Lincoln, NE and asked the manager if they ever had older cars that they take in trade that are too old to put on their lot. He said they did and that they took those cars to auction where they were bought by used car dealers. I asked him if could sell them to us for the same price they bring at auction and he said he’d look into it. I talked to him Friday and he said he had two cars for me. I asked him how much they would cost and he said, “they’re free.” So, now thanks to their kindness, we have two free used cars, one of which is going to Waheed.
NOLB reminds me of QRF in the Army. They move fast, cut through the BS and get things done quickly. Our government could learn a thing or two from them. The unified efforts of Lutheran Family Services in Omaha and No One Left Behind provides these brave men with furnished apartments, jobs, job training and vehicles to get to work. All 60 interpreters who have resettled in Omaha are working and well on their way to becoming productive citizens of the United States.
— David Lemoine