An Afghan translator who spent 9 years risking his life to assist U.S. forces in Afghanistan has just celebrated his first Fourth of July as a U.S. citizen.
Although his duties as a translator never required it, Janis Shinwari saved the lives of several U.S. soldiers—and one of them decided to return the favor, by offering to bring Janis and his family to the U.S.
If he would have stayed in Afghanistan, the translator “wouldn’t be alive today,” he told CNN Heroes in 2018.
Janis was aiding U.S. forces over a decade ago because he wanted his country liberated from the terror of Taliban rule. Although he knew he was risking his life, he did what he thought was right for his country.
In 2008, Capt. Matt Zeller was about to die during a battle with Taliban forces, until a man who identified himself as a U.S. translator dragged him out of harm’s way. They may not have known each other before that moment, but the experience forged an unshakable bond.
“Since that time, we become even closer than brothers,” Janis said.
With the Taliban in pursuit of Janis, Matt began working furiously to get him a visa so he could leave the country. Initially, they expected the process to only take a couple of months, but it actually took several years. Thanks to Matt’s persistence gathering signatures on a petition, and meeting with several members of Congress, Janis and his family fled to the U.S. in 2013.
Once he arrived, Matt helped him with every aspect of his new life in America—including raising $35,000 with a GoFundMe campaign.
Janis finally became eligible for citizenship this year and, on June 30, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli administered the oath of allegiance to Janis and his wife, officially making them U.S. citizens—just in time to celebrate their new country’s Independence Day.
During the ceremony, Janis was thanked for his brave service and saving the lives of 5 Americans.
ICYMI: Yesterday, @HomelandKen joined a naturalization ceremony welcoming 20 #NewUSCitizens at our Washington office. Included were Mr. Janis Shinwari & his wife. Shinwari was a translator alongside our troops in Afghanistan & saved the lives of 5 Americans. Congrats to all! pic.twitter.com/CJgrqIiMBb