PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ As thousands of Afghans rushed to the Kabul airport in an attempt to escape the Taliban, U.S. Marine Corps Major Thomas Schueman was hard at work making phone calls to help his interpreter flee the country.
“I was essentially running a command operation center at my kitchen table in Middletown,” Schueman, who is currently a student at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport said during an interview on 12 News Now at 4.
Schueman’s interpreter, who he identifies as Zak, has been waiting for his visa to be approved since he applied for it in 2016.
Zak worked alongside Schueman during his time in Afghanistan and risked his life on several occasions. That’s why Schueman worked tirelessly to help Zak and his family escape the country. Schueman’s efforts gained national attention, and ultimately paid off.
“Fortunately, my interpreter, Zak, did make it out,” Schueman said. “He’s currently in Qatar awaiting a flight and transport to the United States.”
It’s unknown at this time when Zak’s visa will be approved, and there’s no scheduled date for his arrival to the United States.
“The important thing is that he is safe and out of the Taliban’s harm at this point,” he said.
Schueman said once he does arrive in the United States, Zak and his family will likely settle in San Antonio where one of his relatives lives.
“We’re making efforts and raising funds to welcome him and help him transition,” Schueman said.
Schueman said if Zak hadn’t left Afghanistan when he did, he would’ve been trapped there, something he believes is current reality for tens of thousands of Afghans.
“It doesn’t look promising for them,” Schueman said. “I think the gates are closed and I don’t think anybody else is going to be getting onto the air field.”
At this time Schueman’s understanding is that the United States will continue to evacuate American citizens, but he believes the window of opportunity for Afghans to escape has closed.
“Unfortunately, tens of thousands of people who we promised a visa if they supported us… I don’t think we are going to honor that promise to those individuals,” he said.