From Combat Buddies to Close Neighbors

Honoring the American’s and Afghan’s who fought for our freedom

On this Memorial Day, we remember those who risked everything to defend our country. Those who lost their lives fighting for our freedom, and those who sacrificed their homes and the safety of their families to protect our country.

Every Afghan family involved in Hello Neighbor served alongside the U.S. Military and is here on a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) for their protection. After their service they are often targetted and are no longer safe in their own homes and cities.

This is the story of one of the Afghan father’s involved in Hello Neighbor’s mentorship program. His name has been changed to protect and preserve the safety of his family.

Casey’s Story

Casey started working as an interpreter/translator with the U.S. army in late 2003. He interviewed for the position in Bagram Air Base North of Kabul and the very next day was offered the job and moved to Ghazni province South of Afghanistan.

After arriving at the base, he was asked to choose a nickname to protect himself and his family at home. He chose the name Casey.

In his time at that base, Casey worked with nine different teams as an interpreter and cultural advisor and completed around 700 missions. “At the time, security was not bad,” he said. However, in late 2005 things started getting serious and by 2007 it got worse and worse.

Attacks on their missions became more and more frequent, and while Casey was fortunate enough to survive, many of his fellow interpreters and soldiers were not. “I never forget those hard days that I lost so many wonderful friends, both Afghan and American,” he recalled. “On those days there was grief all over the camp.”

In 2009, Casey met an American soldier named Mark who had recently been relocated to his base. The two became fast friends, spending time together in the evenings after missions discussing religion, family and service.

“Almost immediately, I recognized a young man with integrity and kindness that I hadn’t seen in most people,” Mark recalled. “At the time I was very ignorant about Islam, but have since acquired a much broader sense and come to realize that it’s not a whole lot different than my own.”

Later that year, Casey began receiving threats from the Taliban because of his service to the U.S. Military and was forced to flee Ghazni for the safety of himself and his family. After his departure, he and Mark continued to stay in touch and remained close friends.

Upon returning home to Pittsburgh, Mark wrote letters and made numerous calls to the State Department to speed up the process of Casey’s SIV, and finally, in the fall of 2015, he received word that Casey’s application had been accepted. Shortly after Casey and his family relocated to Pittsburgh—knowing that they had a friend there.

The two men now live 10 minutes down the road from each other, raising their families in the country they fought so hard to protect. “He and his family are here and safe and I thank God every day for this addition to my family,” said Mark.

Though he still fears for the safety of his loved ones back in Afghanistan, Casey is thankful for the opportunity to rebuild his life here in Pittsburgh, in the country he risked so much to defend.

“Serving in the army is not only a job but a sacrifice that veterans and civilian personnel make for the safety of their people and country. It is their courage and dedication that ensures everyone’s safety in the United States.”

On this Memorial Day, we honor the men and women who lost their lives defending our country, and those who sacrificed so much to protect our freedom. Thank you for your service and your sacrifice.

Help us continue our work to support SIV families in Pittsburgh.

Support SIV families

About SIVs

SIV refers to Special Immigrant Visa holders from Iraq and Afghanistan. For their service to the U.S. government in Iraq and Afghanistan, certain Iraqis and Afghans are granted Special Immigrant status (SIV) overseas by the U.S. Department of State and are admitted to the U.S. by the Department of Homeland Security.

The SIV program for Iraqis closed in 2014, leaving countless families vulnerable to violence and persecution for their service to the United States. In 2019, 4,000 SIVs were granted to Afghan families, however, for both Iraqis and Afghans, there is a backlog of tens of thousands of applicants whose lives are in danger.