CLINTON, Tenn. (WATE) — A former United States Marine Corps Infantryman helped rescue six family members of one of his Afghan interpreters. He did it all from his home in Clinton, and he’s hoping the seventh family member (the interpreter) comes to America soon.
Travis Ervin had several deployments to the Middle East. During one of those deployments, in 2010, Ervin’s unit was tasked with clearing the cities of Marjah and Sangin, Afghanistan. He said it was a heavily fortified Taliban stronghold in the Helmand Province.
His platoon had three Afghan interpreters, and only one interpreter is known to be alive.
Ervin said what his fellow service members and those interpreters went through was horrendous.
“These young Marines and Afghan Interpreters truly gave everything they had to provide a better life for the Afghan children and the overall future of Afghanistan. My interpreter stood toe-to-toe with the Taliban alongside us. Always volunteering to participate in highly kinetic foot patrols around the area of operation,” Ervin wrote in a blog.
The interpreter’s name won’t be released to protect his and his family’s safety. Ervin said the interpreter waited several years for a special VISA to be able to come to the United States, but ended up having to flee Afghanistan before that could happen. He’s currently in Turkey. He had to leave his family behind in Kabul.
Fast forward to the U.S. withdrawal out of Afghanistan, Ervin got the call from the interpreter asking him to help his family get to the airport and on a flight out of Kabul. He says that he didn’t hesitate. He knew he had to help since the interpreter helped him and his unit so many times before.
“When the gunfights would start, when the IEDs would happen, you know, (the interpreter) would volunteer, you know. I’ve seen him do this numerous times, to run our casualties to medivac birds,” Ervin said.
Ervin said the United States made a promise to this interpreter and his family. He said this local Afghan knew how dangerous it was to join forces with the U.S., but joining meant a better life for his family. A safer life.
So, Ervin was going to keep that promise the U.S. made.
“Right now, with the U.S. pulling out, we’re like, ‘why did we go over there? Why did we have so many people die for this territory that we just turned around and gave right back to the Taliban?’ That really pulls at our heartstrings, you know. We’re like, ‘what did we do this for?’ Right now it’s about small victories, and for me, it’s about the fact that I can change this family’s life,” Ervin said.
Ervin said the first step was to reach out to all of his contacts and see who was still on the ground, or able to reach out to people still on the ground in Kabul. He found a few, all wanting to remain anonymous.
Then, it was a matter of creating a plan, burning that plan into the family’s head so they knew exactly what to do in case they lose communication. Then, they executed the escape.
“At night I’d have my laptops up and you know, you’re basically creating this little, you know, intelligence cell, where you’re gathering intelligence and you’re sharing information with other people that are doing the same thing,” Ervin said.
Ervin was in constant contact with the interpreter. He told the family to take a picture of exactly what they will wear when heading to the airport, so he could send that to his trusted contacts who would be able to point them out of thousands of people. He told them to only carry essentials, water, food, umbrella, phone chargers and their phones.
Aug. 22 was the day to head to the airport. The family made it through all the Taliban checkpoints, to which Ervin said was pure luck they weren’t caught during those. But, then the situation went downhill once the family got to the airport.
“The first time at the airport, you know, was unsuccessful. We just couldn’t get them positioned where my point of contact could you know physically pluck them from the crowd out of thousands of people. Women and children were being crushed and trampled and assaulted, and they were robbed,” Ervin said.
Ervin said the family was robbed. The children were suffering from heatstroke after being out at the airport for 18 hours. The family decided to leave and take the children to the hospital. The family later went back to their safe house.
Ervin said the mission wasn’t over. After a few days, he got word the family should try again. This time, they headed to a different gate at the airport.
“This gate was a little different. The marines had more of a reach outside. The refugees were on one side of the road, the U.S. military was on the other side of the road. And in the middle of them, was just raw sewage. It was just a sewage ditch,” Ervin said.
The family waded through that sewage ditch. It was their last effort to safety. They made it. Now, the family is in the United States, waiting for clearance in D.C.
Ervin said he will be taking the family to his home in Clinton. His house is nearly ready. Beds are put together for the family, the downstairs basement was shifted into a living area. The family has clothes, toothbrushes, food and toiletries.
Ervin said now, all they need is help financially to get back up on their feet.
“They’re already asking me for jobs and how to join the military. These are people that want to be productive members of society. They would never ask for help. This is me taking this initiative,” Ervin said.
He said they’ll have legal fees, and they’ll need to save up for a car and eventually a place of their own. In the meantime, Ervin is grateful to be their host. He said it was his duty to serve and get them to safety, and now he feels as if his mission is complete.
“We’ll have a group of Afghans running around here fishing and the kids don’t speak English yet, but when they do start to speak English and we hear a little southern accent, coming out, you know, that’s when I’ll know, you know, we’ve done it,” Ervin said.
The next step is to try and get the interpreter, out of Turkey and reunite him with his family. If you would like to help donate to the family, you can find their GoFundMe here.