One of the most often repeated phrases in our military culture is “Leave No Fallen Comrade Behind.” Many service members relied so heavily on their Afghan and Iraqi translators that some were considered members of the unit. It goes without saying that, when troops are in the combat zone, their lives are in constant danger. But at the end of their tours, they get to go home.
Translators, however, do not have that luxury.
The State Department, seeing the dangers citizens who help Coalition Forces face, promised Special Immigrant Visas to interpreters in exchange of one year of “faithful and valuable service.” This program, however, closes at the end of this month.
One peculiar case is that of Janis Shinwari. Janis was an interpreter for CPT Matt Zeller in Afghanistan. Janis managed to save Matt’s life in a firefight against the Taliban in 2008 (Janis shot and killed two insurgents). After Matt returned to Rochester, NY, Janis applied for a Special Immigrant Visa. Earlier this month, after years of lobbying, Janis and his family were granted visas. Janis quit his job, sold all of his possessions and prepared for a new life in the Washington DC Metro area.
Photo: Janis Shinwari