Safety and sadness: Afghan refugees observe their first Ramadan in the US

Brittny Mejia, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Religious News

Maqsoud was 19 when he began working as a linguist. It was his job to help Marines communicate with contractors and other Afghans. He described the troops as "a family, as a team."

In 2011, Maqsoud was in a "mine-resistant ambush-protected" vehicle when it ran over a 100-pound roadside bomb. The gunner, positioned at the top, was thrown from the vehicle. Although severely injured, he survived. Maqsoud was left dizzy and scared, but unharmed.

"We were blessed," Maqsoud recalled.

Collin Hannigan, then a Marine captain, was one car behind and witnessed the blast. If not for the design of the vehicle, he said, the passengers "would have been killed."

Maqsoud worked as a linguist for almost four years before quitting and going back to school to study for his bachelor's degree in business administration. He got a job at a telecommunications company. Over the last decade, he has kept in touch with Hannigan.

Hannigan, a San Diego resident, left the Marines in 2014 after seven years. The 39-year-old now works for a company that helps businesses hire military veterans.


Last year, as the situation in Afghanistan rapidly deteriorated, Maqsoud and Hannigan communicated more frequently. One morning, Hannigan awoke to a message from Maqsoud about the Taliban that read: "The bad guys are all now here."

"He was in a country which was now completely controlled by the people that wanted to have him killed and that he fought against for three or four years," Hannigan said. "In the blink of an eye that happened."

Hannigan had helped three other interpreters get their visa packages through, although he faced more difficulties with Maqsoud's for an unknown reason. But he kept trying to get the former linguist out.

He finally managed to link up with the office of Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) through Joe Kristol, a Marine he'd served with. Hannigan was able to tell Maqsoud's story. He described the mission in which the interpreter had almost died. He talked about Maqsoud's service to U.S. troops and the danger he now faced.


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