North Texas

Afghan interpreter arrives in US after two years in hiding with help from North Texas veteran

NBC Universal, Inc.

A late-night reunion at DFW Airport on July 7 was a moment Mike Donoghue thought might never happen but one the Marine veteran fought to see for two years.

“Shirzad was attached to my squad in 2009, so we got to develop a friendship over the 10 years I was in Afghanistan. He was by my side 24/7, working with my squad to translate everything. So you know, he became one of our team,” said Mike Donoghue.

As he watched Kabul fall in August of 2021, Donoghue said he knew his former interpreter was as good as dead in the Taliban’s hands.

Like so many others, Shirzad Ghafoori and his family rushed to the Kabul airport in those early days but were forced away by violence.

That was 5 years after Ghafoori's initial request for a Special Immigrant Visa was placed on hold by the U.S.

"It shouldn't be this hard to get someone who served our country out of there. It shouldn't be,” said Donoghue.

That’s when Donoghue said he launched his own war, contacting anyone who would listen.

“I started trying to get in touch with local senators and congresspeople to help us push this process through because obviously, he deserves to be here. He fought with U.S, forces for four and a half, five years,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, Shirzad and his family were forced to live a life hidden from the Taliban's view.

“He was already moving from hotel to hotel. We would work to try and find a safe house in Mazar-i-Sharif, and then the Taliban would get closer, get closer, and we would have to move them back to Kabul,” said Donoghue.

Still, neither man gave up.

And two years later, Donoghue finally got the call that Ghafoori and his family were boarding a plane out of Afghanistan and into Albania.

"I honestly didn't think it was real,” he said.

Two weeks ago, they touched down in Dallas.

"You know, I have had a lot of problems,” said Ghafoori breaking down in tears.

Now in a safe situation, Ghafoori still struggles to grapple with the risks his family took.  

Today, as he watches his two kids play with new American friends, he said their struggle both in the past and in the future as refugees is worth it.

"It's all because of their future,” he said.

That includes the baby on the way who will be born an American citizen.

Donoghue and his wife Dana are now turning their focus to helping their friends navigate American life.

“You think about a lot of these things we just know. They don’t know these things. They don’t pay with bank cards. They don’t have to worry about getting renter’s insurance and things like that for their apartment,” said Donoghue.

The couple has started a GoFundMe to help the family move out of a hotel into more permanent housing as Ghafoori looks for a job and his wife and children learn English and prepare for the school year.

Contact Us