Welcoming our Afghanistan allies

Fatima Jaghoori fled Afghanistan with her family in 1999 after her father was killed saving the lives of two American doctors.

Her father freed the kidnapped Americans and led them safely to the border with Pakistan. On his return trip, he was ambushed and killed.

“Our family had to flee in the middle of the night to Pakistan,” said Jaghoori, who was 2 at the time. “The two doctors — God works in mysterious ways — found out that our father died and they vouched for us. We came over through the humanitarian process to the United States, seeking refuge.”

That experience placed her on a path to a lifetime of service.

“That’s the reason I joined the military,” said Jaghoori, who served as a medic for nine years in the U.S. Army and did tours in Iraq. “This country has given me so much. I have nothing but gratitude and love for this country.”

The Jaghooris are members of the Hazara minority group in Afghanistan. In the 1990s, Hazaras were persecuted by the Taliban. After Kabul fell to the Taliban in 2021, there were significant fears about whether they would again persecute the Hazaras. 

“There has been genocide committed against our ethnicity for over 100 years,” she affirmed. “My uncle was killed in the (Afghanistan) Civil War. There has been a lot of death and turmoil within our familial history.”

Jaghoori is part of the Manhattan Afghanistan Resettlement Team (MART) in Kansas. She helps other Afghanistan women navigate their exodus, guiding them to safe houses, plotting out their travel to America and helping them resettle when they arrive.

She is a member of American Legion Post 17 in Manhattan, which plays a crucial role in the resettlement.

Among the Afghanistan natives who Jaghoori helped resettle in Kansas are Latifa Ahmadi and Fatima Farahmand. (They spoke to The American Legion, with Jaghoori serving as a translator.)

Ahmadi was a soldier in the Afghanistan army, fighting the Taliban and supporting American troops. When U.S. forces pulled out in August 2021, her life took a dramatic turn.

“As soon as they made the announcement that Kabul had fallen, I felt like all the roads in my life had shut down,” she said. “Being a woman, being a soldier in the military, I knew I was going to get gunned down, pretty much hunted.”

Thanks to Jaghoori and MART, Ahmadi arrived in America two months ago, moved into an apartment earlier this month and is taking English as a Second Language classes. She understands and smiles broadly when asked about what freedom means to her.

“The amount of feelings I get are unexplainable but to know that I can freely work, that I can freely get an education, and just really be me is all I can say about it. I can just be me.”

Farahmand arrived from Afghanistan two years ago so she could continue her education, which was forbidden under the Taliban rule. She is studying carpentry.

“I am so happy to be here because in Afghanistan, the girls cannot study and they can’t go to university,” she said. “I want to graduate earlier so I can get a job and stand on my own two feet, and be able to help my two sisters and give them a better life.”  

Post 17’s involvement began when Jaghoori and retired Army veteran Matthew Burany met.

“It feels really great that we can do this for the Afghanistan allies,” said Burany, the service officer for Post 17. “Fatima came to our veterans coalition meeting, asking what she can do to get her family out and others out of there. Since the drawdown was so sudden, nobody knew what they could do. I told her I would do as much as I could. Hopefully, I will be able to do even more.”

On April 12, Post 17 hosted its third dinner for Afghanistan allies and other refugees, who number nearly 250 in Manhattan. The meal consisted of traditional Afghanistan dishes, featuring spicy chicken, rice and vegetables, spinach stew, okra stew, as well as a flat bread, rice pudding and a special Persian cake. After dinner, tea was served.

“This is how we get the community more involved with The American Legion and with MART, since they only started in 2022,” said Burany, who has championed the post's involvement since the beginning.

Department Commander Randy Frank, a member of Post 18 in Arkansas City, attended the dinner and offered support and help to members of the MART board.

“It’s a great accomplishment of what they are doing with the members of the community, letting the Afghan refugees know that we still care and we have their back because of all that they did for us during the war,” he said. “I believe this effort is going to continue to grow.”

Simply put, it’s about giving back, Frank said.

“The values of The American Legion demonstrate that we care about all veterans,” he said, alluding to Jaghoori, Ahmadi and other Afghanistan veterans who have resettled in the United States. “They helped us in the commitments we made. We are here to take care of them as well and provide what services we can to help them out.”

That American Legion support extends from the Midwest to Capitol Hill.

“It’s reassuring knowing the impact The American Legion is having on the Afghanistan Adjustment Act, and knowing they support it and speak about it,” she said. “For Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans, be aware that The American Legion is doing something for our allies and to not go into these moments of despair, like feeling ‘I did all that for nothing.’ What you did matters. I’m just thankful for this organization and for all the support.”

Jaghoori and MART are passionate about assisting others.

Last Memorial Day, they helped clean up a cemetery. And just last month at Post 17, they hosted a Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans dinner. Afterward, two of the honorees praised the Afghanistan women, saying they hadn’t previously been thanked in such a way.

“Why has this never happened before,” Jaghoori asked rhetorically. “Honoring other soldiers is like honoring (her father).”

Jaghoori embodies her dad’s service and sacrifice.

“Our family very much believes in serving others,” she said. “Do the best for the most people that you can, which is why I think this is so amazing. MART is so amazing. I can see why people get sucked into public service for such a long time. It’s exciting to see them bloom like little rose bushes.”

Her dedication extends beyond helping her sisters in arms. She provides hope and resources for those who helped American troops. Those who fought the Taliban. And those who simply want an education.

“These girls can’t go to school (in Afghanistan),” she said. “Knowing that with them being here less than a year, they got their CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistant) and they are doing fantastic and they are excelling at life. They’re just amazing humans.”

Jaghoori is only just getting started.

“I get to see them build their whole life. How beautiful is that? Just knowing and seeing that, I’d go through hell and back. And the opportunities I’ve had in life, I don’t think they will ever get. But I will try to get them the best opportunities available. It’s beyond rewarding.”