Former Green Beret helped Afghan refugees get to Syracuse

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — It was an escape that reads like an international thriller. A former U.S. Interpreter who snuck out of Afghanistan with the help of former war veterans, including a school teacher, now making a life in Syracuse. 

For safety concerns, we are only using his first name. Here is a look at how Mohammed’s family is settling into their new life, and the ongoing need of support for those left behind. 

Watching their children together on a playground would have been difficult to imagine just a few short months ago. Mohammed, his 5-year-old son, wife, and twins were caught up in the chaos of the last days of the U.S. engagement in Afghanistan. He was beaten by the Taliban, his phone was searched, and his car stolen.  

Staying there, could have been a death sentence.  

“My mother crying to me, you must leave Afghanistan. I said no, you are my brother, my sister, in Afghanistan, you know, it’s very bad for me… If I stayed, I think I am not alive,” Mohammed said. 

Zac Lois, a former Green Beret, relied on Mohammed to be his combat interpreter. Zac says Mohammed’s age and excellent shape helped American soldiers. 

“He was able to give us a heads up, ‘Hey they’re about to open fire on you,’” Mohammed recalled. 

Lois engineered the secret mission which was tabbed “Pineapple Express.” Along with other war veterans, he began shepherding Afghan allies and families past Taliban checkpoints to safety.  

Using hand signals and passwords sent from Zac, Mohammed was able to get inside the airport and travel safely with Marines. He is now making a new life for his family here but is fearful for the loved ones left behind. 

“Right now, the situation is getting horrific. The Taliban have increased their attacks on people and are getting better at figuring out how to track people and hunt them down,” Mohammed said. 

Back in Syracuse, to help him not dwell on those atrocities, Mohammed takes solace in the fact that this move has opened so many doors for his children. As his son continues to play on a playground at his new home, Mohammed cannot help but smile. 

“Maybe he will find a good future here. (He could be an) engineer, doctor, like – he can be anything.” 

While Mohammed and his family was able to get out, there are still families in Afghanistan. They can’t afford plane tickets out and their green cards/visa expire in December. They are trying to raise funds to get them out in time. There is a massive humanitarian and aid crisis growing as well. 

Employers with job opportunities and people with donations can contact the Catholic Charities of Onondaga County  at (315) 424-1800. 

Other ways to help including donations to operationrecovery.org and taskforcepineapple.org. 

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