NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – A U.S. Navy veteran in Hampton Roads is helping people in Afghanistan who helped him 10 years ago.
Jose Roman served in naval special warfare as part of a unit that also included SEALS and other military. They were engaged in special village operations, developing relationships with Afghans who would fight with them against the Taliban and serve as interpreters.
Now, Roman is one of an estimated 1,200 volunteers who are helping people flee the country. They include former military, media, and representatives from non-governmental organizations.
He says he knows what the Taliban are capable of.
“We’re already seeing it now – folks that are getting hunted, folks that are getting death notices, the Taliban cowboys rolling around in neighborhoods, looking for interpreters, looking for our Afghan partners that helped us over the last 20 years,” he said.
On Thursday, two suicide bombers and gunmen attacked crowds of Afghans who were rushing to Kabul’s airport. At least 12 U.S. service members were killed, including 11 Marines and one Navy medic. Fifteen other military members were injured.
With death threats from the Taliban still looming, Roman and others like him are trying to beat the clock. They’re helping the Afghans navigate an immigration process that can involve as many as 24 different steps in time for Tuesday’s deadline.
“If somebody doesn’t get this right, somebody’s gonna die. That’s literally what it is,” Roman said.
Roman says he’s had some recent victories — a friend has made it to Connecticut, another to Texas. Just this week, someone he was working with finally got on a flight to Qatar.
“I just got notice today that he was able to manifest and he’s on a flight out. So that was touch and go the entire week,” he said.
He wants to see the U.S. show more force and control on the ground as people try to get out.
“I think the U.S. has to show strength. I think the administration really needs to push back, and we really need to control the situation and not be dictated to by the Taliban what happens next. There’s a lot of people being left behind, not just Afghans but Americans as well,” he said.