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Afghan refugees start new chapter on Fort Pickett

“Even if I couldn’t make to United States I was about to go to Iran, Pakistan or somewhere to get out of the reach of the Taliban,” Ansari said.
Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 11:12 PM EST
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(WDBJ) - Nearly five months after US military troops completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan, thousands of refugees are still preparing for their new lives here in America.

On military bases across the country, families are starting a new chapter in the United States after the Taliban forced them thousands of miles away from their homes.

“When we see our whole country collapse, we say it is probably a dream,” Sami Ansari said

Sami Ansari evacuated the country with his family. For them, it is still hard to believe the chaos that tore them from their home.

“Suddenly everything just gone,” Ansari said.

Getting to the airport to escape was difficult, Ansari said. His family wasn’t far from the suicide bombers who killed 13 U.S. troops. But he said evacuating was his only option.

“Even if I couldn’t make to United States I was about to go to Iran, Pakistan or somewhere to get out of the reach of the Taliban,” Ansari said.

In August, he arrived on base with his family at Fort Pickett in Virginia.

The base gave them and 10,300 others a home to start over.

“All of us have an origin story, all of us have a beginning that doesn’t necessarily tie to the country itself and the cool part is that all of us are contributing to that experience for these guests,” Major Kurt Hoenig said.

Hoenig is a Marine and served as the mayor of thousands of refugees on base.

That means he worked with the families closely to listen to their problems and improve their experiences.

“The coolest part about being here is that we are helping families,” Hoenig said.

Resources like a computer lab and English classes are just some of the ways Fort Pickett is trying to give refugees a leg up before moving off base.

“I helped the U.S. embassy and now it’s there turn and they’re helping us too much and I am so happy they are helping and supporting us,” Adina said.

Adina is another person who found refuge in the U.S. She didn’t want to share her full name in hopes of protecting loved ones in Afghanistan. When she escaped in August, she helped keep U.S. documents safe.

And while she is happy to be here now, she can’t help but think of all the others left behind.

“I worry about my family. I know today they are safe, but I don’t know about the future. I don’t know about the next day,” she said.

It’s a worry that won’t leave, even as she and others look toward their futures.

As of this week, only 2,000 Afghan guests are still on base at Fort Pickett; 8,300 others have been relocated to new communities across the country including Adina, and Sami Ansari and his family.

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