Muhammad Oryakhail spent 10 years working for U.S. military forces in Afghanistan. He started as a language translator, accompanying troops patrolling some of the most dangerous parts of the country.
Then he worked directly with Special Forces as a soldier, performing high risk missions and raids with American troops. His upbeat personality awarded him the nickname “Sunny” among the soldiers in his unit.
“I loved working with the American Army,” Muhammad said. “I worked with very good people.”
However, the consequences were perilous to him as an Afghan citizen.
He could only go home to his family on rare occasions and under the cover of night. He says that everyone knew he was and who he worked for. If the information got into the wrong hands, it would mean death. When the protection of U.S. forces left, his family needed to leave too.
“I was sure that my life was not safe there,” he said. “A translator is the first target from the Taliban.”
Muhammad and his family received Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) from the U.S. State Department to safely immigrate as political refugees.
When they arrived at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on June 24, 2014, staff members from Catholic Charities’ Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) were there to welcome them into their new life of freedom and safety.
“It was a wonderful time when I got to the United States,” he said. “I felt like the luckiest man alive.”
The staff at MRS found a house in Fredericksburg for Muhammad, his wife and their four children. The house was furnished; their security deposit and first six months of rent were paid for.
The MRS staff also enrolled Muhammad’s children in elementary school and ESL programs and has helped with any miscommunications at school.
“All the help that we need, they are happy to help us,” he said.
Muhammad’s MRS caseworker also helped him find a job. He was initially earning minimum wage working as a CVS Sales Associate, but now will be earning almost $50,000 a year as a commercial truck driver.
A partnership between MRS and The United Way paid for the necessary training for Muhammad to obtain his commercial driver’s license. The goal of the partnership is to help increase employability so clients can quickly become self-sufficient and integrated into society.
He is proud that he has already visited 47 of the 50 states during his training. He says he enjoyed learning more about the people, cultures and different parts of the United States.
“I am working hard to be educated and know everything I can about this culture,” he said. “The main reason we are here is because this is the land of opportunity. My family will be safe and have a bright future.”
To support the families that are assisted by MRS, click here to donate or email Cathy Hassinger at CHassinger@ccda.net to adopt a family or volunteer your time. We need assistance with greeting families at the airport and providing meals for them when they arrive, furnishing their apartment, teaching cultural orientation and English as a Second Language, or teaching cultural orientation.