August 15th will mark the one-year anniversary of the fall of Kabul to the Taliban who, on that day, marched into the capital unopposed and took control of the government, the capital, and the country of Afghanistan. It is a day that I will never forget.

Prior to this day, I had been working with my Congressman, Mark Takano (D-CA 41st District), to get Afghan Nationals, who had worked as interpreters for my command in 2011, the Afghan National Army Special Operations Advisory Group(ANASOAG), out of Afghanistan, along with their family members, via the US State Department Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. The Congressman and I had started working on this in 2015 after I had returned from my second tour in Afghanistan and up to August 2021, we had succeeded in getting six of them out along with their family members. We had five former interpreters in the pipeline when the US pulled completely out of  Afghanistan on 31 August. Several of these five tried to get out via the Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) but were turned back several times by the Taliban who had been given permission to control all the entry points to HKIA. Because of this, many of the Taliban manning these entry points turned back ANYONE who was found to have documents showing that they worked or the US government/US military.

At the same time, they let through many people who had NO connection to the US government/US military whatsoever (This is why so many Afghans ended up in the US and US government officials had NO idea who these people were). Not only did the Taliban turn back Afghans who should have been allowed in because of their connections to the US government/US military but they also physically attacked many of these people at the entry points. One of the five Afghans we had been trying to get out via the SIV process was severely beaten on his last attempt to gain access to HKIA. Taliban control of the entry points to HKIA was one of the reasons why so many Afghans in the SIV process were left behind and it was one of the reasons why 13 US servicemembers were killed by a suicide bomber on 26 August 2021.


The US Marine Corps posted a photo to Twitter, of the flag flag-draped caskets of their fallen Marines, sailors and soldiers killed in Thursday’s suicide bomb attack in Kabul, after the ir remains arrived at Dover Air Force base in Delaware, August 29, 2021

Getting Them Out-Hitting A Wall

After the US pullout on 31 August, I continued to work on trying to get the five Afghans who were in the SIV process out of Afghanistan. When I had no luck with the US State Department, I turned to nonprofit organizations that either existed prior to the pull-out or were formed after the pull-out and that claimed that their primary mission was to find ways to get Afghan Nationals out of Afghanistan. Unfortunately, of over the dozen that I established contact with and attempted to work with, not one organization was able to help me get any Afghan Nationals out of Afghanistan. I spent a good seven of the eleven months working with nonprofit organizations. The closest I came to success was an air evac mission involving the government and country of Portugal, but this never materialized despite our putting up money to secure places on the air evac flights for our group which had grown from five individuals to thirty-four individuals due to word of mouth among those stuck in Afghanistan about former US service members who were still trying to help Afghan Nationals get out of Afghanistan.

Recently, the US State Department has implemented some changes to the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program in order to expedite the issuance of SIVs in an effort to assist those Afghan Nationals who were in the SIV application process when the US pullout on 31 August occurred and who were left behind (The standard wait time for the approval of an SIV prior to August 2021 was THREE years). However,
regarding the people we are trying to help, the grim reality appears to be that when the anniversary of the pullout occurs at the end of next month, they will still be in Afghanistan. Regarding this situation, I would appeal to President Biden directly, but I have been reluctant to do so given my experience in trying to get him to respond to me regarding asking for his help as a disabled combat veteran on a personal matter.

In my case, I was the sole owner of my own business and in the US Army Reserve when I was called up shortly after 9/11. Over the next twelve years, I have deployed a total of seven times. I served honorably and was decorated for my service. However, I paid the price for
serving my country in uniform in times of war. My business failed as a result of all my active-duty deployments and, as a result, I fell behind on my personal taxes. So far, between last year and this year, I have written the President five times asking for his help in my dealing with the IRS or for his intervention in my getting total IRS back taxes forgiveness in consideration of my military service. Except for one standard form note I received from the White House; I have gotten no response. At a time when the President is talking about forgiving massive student debt, you can imagine how a disabled combat veteran feels about this and the fact that he is ignored, along with the personal sacrifices he made in order to serve his country. The frustration is even compounded considering what I did over and above my active-duty military service.

Before my company went out of business, it participated in the development and fielding of the Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles which to date have saved the lives and/or limbs of hundreds of thousands of US servicemembers (for which I refused to accept monetary compensation due to my active duty service). It was my hope that this would be taken into consideration regarding my tax situation but despite mentioning this in all my letters to the President, I received no response. My situation only involves a low six-figure amount owed to the IRS. It is insignificant to the US government, but it is a major obstacle to me in my quest to put my life back together and get back on track after my wartime service.