Account by Blaine Holt. Today’s freedom story.

Account by Blaine Holt,

…”Today’s freedom story will be somewhat fictionalized, but plausible based on the events we see before us in Kabul and my own experience in the country and region. My aim is to provide a little context.

August 2015.

Farjaad Sher was blessed from day one in his life, just by his name which in Pashto means “Excellent learner and Lion.” The 33 year old had seen horrors in his life, but his family navigated the crises with deft agility from the Soviet occupation, the brutal Taliban regime and now the Americans behind the fragile Afghan government.

Farjaad had just taken over his father’s translation business. The prospects looked very good for his young family as he signed a fresh contract with American Special Forces, providing them with Pashto, Urdu and English verbal and written translations.

The contract valued at $200,000 USD for two years might have seemed quite normal or even cheap by US standards, but in Afghanistan, Farjaad had just secured his family’s financial future. The dreams he had of providing for his wife and baby boy would be realized.

Farjaad came to respect and love the rangers and navy seals he worked with. He never worried for his own safety despite visiting villages with them where Taliban eyes were always watching. One of the departing units honored Farjaad with a coveted Ranger Tab, which he wore.

He knew the Americans would leave eventually, but that would be when the free Afghans could govern and defend themselves. The future was bright.

Aug 2021

Farjaad’s wife and son gathered whatever they could, stuffing possessions into small suitcases. That’s when Farjaad burst in, returning from his office where he tried to call the soldiers and then the embassy with no success.

“What are you doing? We cannot take anything but what we have on! And we must go now!” He asked Afhak, his wife to put a burka on in case Taliban stopped their escape to the airport. She had not worn one in years but understood her husband’s wisdom. They grabbed 6 yr old Dadvar and ran.

The streets were full of panic. The air smelled of smoke and gun fire could be heard. It was hard for them to hear each other with the helicopters flying low overhead and the C-17s landing at Kabul airport.

Farjaad was grateful their home was so close to the airport. The constant noise made it affordable; now he hoped this proximity might save their lives.

He had already decided. They would get out on one of the American airplanes or they would perish. There was no doubt what the Taliban would do to a Pashtun who worked for US Forces. However the thousands running for the airport made him think they were too late.

How was he going to get past the crowd for their chance to escape? The airport was utter chaos. Occasional rockets were fired by the Taliban to increase the stakes in the disaster now unfolding.

Although the three of them pushed their way to the security entry point for the terminal, freedom may as well have been 10,000 miles away as they watched the C-17s being loaded. People were running alongside the taxiing aircraft, climbing up the sides of the airplane and crawling into the gear pods. The screams could be heard from all directions.

Seeing that their prospects from waiting in a cue to be screened was looking more and more hopeless, he decided to take an incredible risk. He grabbed Afhak and his son out of line and they raced right up to a US soldier providing security near the entrance.

The soldier, uncertain of Farjaad’s intention leveled his rifle and ordered Farjaad to halt. Farjaad put his hands up and in perfect English said, “I am an American Special Forces translator. I work for Colonel Jacobsen. Please save us!!!”

The soldier asked if he had his contractor identification. After reviewing, the Sergeant made a call on his radio to relay what Farjaad presented, but deep down he knew this family had little chance of diverting anyone’s attention from the meltdown, now in full progress. Farjaad could see the pessimism in his eyes.

The radio chirped back, “This is Colonel Jacobsen, 75th Ranger Regiment. Ask Farjaad what his wife’s name is.” Before the Sergeant could say “Yes Sir,” Farjaad screamed “Afhak, it’s Afhak Colonel!!!”

“Sgt, please get these loyal friends to my TOC. We will manifest them on the next outbound.”

There were no seats in the massive aircraft, only bodies on top of bodies. Farjaad and his family were on the C-17 but hardly feeling safe. The terror was on all 800 faces in that jet along with very concerned looks from the crew.

Perhaps the sounds that none of them would ever erase from their memories came next. As they taxied to the runway, scores of Afghans were climbing on the outside of the plane, banging fists on the skin of the bird and screaming.

All Farjaad could do now is pray for them. He would later learn that some met their deaths by climbing into the landing gear pod, others fell to God’s hands from 300 feet when they couldn’t hang on any longer.

As the airplane flew into the Afghan night, over the mountains, the loadmasters could hear their passengers, Americans, Afghans and other foreign nationals openly weeping.

The brave crew would delay their tears for later.

Farjaad always considered himself to be blessed. He was. His wife was holding their son. Farjaad was holding her hand tightly. In the other hand he was holding his precious ranger tab.

Tonight, I shall think of all our aircrews, combat forces, diplomats, Afghans and peoples from many nations fighting this tempest in some way or another. My prayers are theirs.

Dark days will turn to light but for today’s healing it will take God and our faith in each other.

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