Local veterans help Afghan families flee to United States

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Retired Marine Major Terry Slatic of Fresno is breathing a sigh of relief after getting news that the Afghan interpreter he worked side by side with is safe in the US.

"He spent three years of his life out there on the front lines," Slatic says of his former interpreter, being referred to as 'John' for discretion.

Slatic and other military officials spent days strategizing an escape for John.

"When he bodysurfed through the crowd, climbed the wall, I told him when we conversed, 'Look for someone dressed like me,'" said Slatic.

He says a letter of support from a Marine Major General, along with a copy of a picture of John with Slatic on the job, provided enough proof to get John out of Afghanistan to safety in America.

"He and I spoke yesterday at great length," said Slatic. "It was a phenomenal conversation. He's calming down. A week ago, his life was in massive danger."

RELATED: America's longest war ends after 20 years as last US troops depart Afghanistan

Without US military boots on the ground in Afghanistan, U.S. Army veteran Eric Olsen says the challenge to help people escape will intensify.

"They are willing to do just about anything to go just about anywhere," he said.

Olsen served in Iraq in the early 2000s and now from his home in Fresno, he's spent the last week doing what he can to help Afghan families flee.
"It is an extremely dangerous situation for everyone that is either known or suspected of working with us over the last 20 years," said Olsen.

He's been working his sources within the government -- connections made through his time in the Army and Westpoint Military Academy.

As the last of U.S. troops exited Afghanistan Monday, Olsen says his efforts were successful for one family. He isn't disclosing much about their identity or whereabouts but says the family includes multiple children, and that they are headed to the western US.

"They already have a home to go to in America," he said. "We are working on plans for some point in the future for them to come out and meet me."

Olsen says he will continue to help facilitate connections for the many still hoping to escape. In the meantime, he's' looking forward to the day he can meet the family he helped face to face.

"After the past six days, I can guarantee you there are going to be hugs and tears like lifelong friends."
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