Humanitarian says chaos in Afghanistan reminiscent of fall of Saigon

A humanitarian we spoke to wants to help save as many people from the chaos in Afghanistan as possible after he spent years there. It’s personal to him because of his experience, but also because what is happening there now serves as a reminder of the end of the Vietnam War, which is especially personal to his mother.

Jeff Le, a political partner with the Truman National Security Project, wanted to see the world. He wanted to learn about other cultures. That’s what he got during his time in Afghanistan.

“We were trying to do international development work, economic development projects, building roads across the country, in the middle of a conflict,” Le explained.

From 2010 to 2013, he was in the middle of the conflict. He worked with Afghan people and learned the culture.

“I feel incredible gratitude, but I also feel incredible guilt knowing that, by me hiring them, they now have a bullseye on their back,” Le said.

Catastrophe is happening to people who welcomed Le into their homes.

“To know that I have staff that will not be able to get out, where I have families already receiving reprisals, people that have been physically assaulted, sometimes worse,” Le said. “And as a Vietnamese American, who 46 years ago, my family were fleeing, and of an American war. It’s a very hard thing to see history.”

Le’s parents escaped the fall of Saigon in April of 1975. It’s what Vietnamese people call Black April.

With the current process of the United States departure from Afghanistan, it is seen as a repeat of history Le’s mother hoped she’d never witness.

“What she saw on TV on the 15th, in Kabul, was worse than what she saw live in Vietnam, I think, says a lot,” Le said. “She still was able to see that this situation not only similar, but worse.”

The images of Afghan parents handing their children off to soldiers for hopes of a better life is heartbreaking for Le and his mother.

“That’s the situation. That’s how dire it is,” Le said. “And, you know, for women and girls in Afghanistan, they will be facing a very difficult road going forward.”

Anyone interested in helping a refugee family can visit the Lutheran Social Services website, an organization based in Jacksonville working to to find Afghan refugees new homes. Lutheran Social Services has spent decades helping refugees find new homes in the U.S. The group is seeking money, furniture and volunteer help.

Reporter:Gail Levy
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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