The wartime friendship of two veterans helped a family escape the Taliban for a new life in Arizona
When you face certain things in life, when you go through a dangerous situation, it builds an undying bond. It’s hard to put into words, but it feels like it’s unbreakable.
I did a lot of research before coming to Kabul. I knew I was entering a battle zone. But when it comes to meeting people, I don’t know what to expect.
We went there to advise the Afghan Air Force. My first night there, we were hit with rockets. It’s like, “Welcome to Afghanistan.”
An alarm will sound. People call it the “giant voice”. Because it was on speaker system. It will say, “Coming, coming. Great, great. ” The first time you were scared to death. Your heart is jumping out of your chest. Then it just became business as usual. You are numb to it afterwards.
You’re so lost, you’re in a country you’ve never been to. It is a very dangerous place. Trust is a major issue. And how you can learn to overcome those fears and build trust. You must be able to build a relationship.
I went there in October 2014 and I met Hazem in mid-November, probably around Thanksgiving. I heard he is a good man. The old advisor told me, “You can trust him.”
The day I learned that he could speak English, that’s why it all started from there. We can communicate face to face without an interpreter. Our relationship only increased tenfold. I can call him on the phone. I could say, “Hazem, how are you?” I’ll bring him to our base. I’ll let him come over to the campfire at night, let him come around and break the bread. We were able to build a personal relationship.
We will talk about our family. I met his children. We will talk about home – family, cultural differences, like we want to get to know and respect each other.
We already have a projector that we are going to install. We’ll be watching movies on the wall – “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “Rambo 3” We played the game on Xbox. We’ll do other silly stuff… see how far any of us can throw a rock – you know, who’s the strongest. I will show my children pictures. “Look what they did today”… “Oh, look, they carved pumpkins on Halloween”… “They’re here for Christmas.” That kind of tool.
I had a hard time finding a real relationship in America, compared to the working relationship I had with him in Afghanistan. It’s completely different. Once we have determined that we can trust each other, nothing can stop us.