From Afghanistan to Alamogordo: Army Major reunited with interpreter-turned-friend, rescues entire family

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – An Army Major reunited with his interpreter whom he worked alongside in Afghanistan after he was evacuated from the country along with his family.

Major Chris Liggett, U.S. Army Special Operations Civil Affairs, picked up Matiullah, also known as “Mat” and his family at Holloman Airforce Base on October 21. (Author’s note: For security reasons, we are only using Mat’s first name)

Mat worked for the U.S. Army for 16 years, and with Major Liggett during his tour in Afghanistan back in 2014. Major Liggett says Mat worked as an interpreter, a cultural advisor, owned a store, and was a part of the Army’s medical evacuation drills in Afghanistan.

The two kept in contact over the years and, most recently, Liggett helped get Mat and his family out of the country as their province fell to the Taliban.

“He had to hide in a water tank outside his house, get his family to Kabul. And then we went through the process of how do we get you through the gate right, there were thousands of Afghans trying to make their way onto the airport…They were actually at Abbey Gate – where the explosion happened that killed 13 service members – hours before it happened. And they entered the airport through another entrance…they got really lucky…”

Major Chris Liggett, U.S. Army Special Operations Civil Affairs

Mat describes Major Liggett as his hero, for all he did helping get him and his family out of Afghanistan.

“It was really crazy for me and he helped me, we come to the gate like my family and everything like that and he is our hero,” said Mat.

Mat, along with his wife, seven children, and his brothers, flew from Afghanistan to Holloman Air Force Base, where Major Liggett met with them. They then made the short drive south, where they all flew out of the El Paso International Airport to Colorado where Major Liggett lives.

“I was a little nervous like what it was going to feel like when I first saw him because it’s been seven years but it just feels like families here, it just feels like my friends are here,” said Liggett.

Liggett says he has kept in contact with Mat since he left Afghanistan and over the years he’s been helping Mat with his Special Immigrant Visa, saying the process was almost complete before Mat’s province fell to the Taliban.

Mat says it’s a dream come true to be reunited with Liggett in America.

“This is the land of the freedom, the land of free speech, the land of the opportunity and we are so happy today…”

‘Mat,’ Major Liggett’s friend.

Major Liggett is a part of the OEF Resettlement Project, made up of a group of volunteers many of them veterans who were deployed to Afghanistan working to help get evacuees like Mat resettled in the U.S.

He adds that the OEF Resettlement Project is a national effort that has a lawyer on the team, helping evacuees with their humanitarian parole and helping them get access to medical care. Additionally, volunteers – who are connected with politicians – are helping to lobby for benefits for the Afghans.

“People are opening up their properties for rent for Afghan families who don’t have social security numbers they don’t have proof of steady income right. But this is all with the understanding that community is necessary in order to get them back on their feet, find employment, help them learn English, and get them started,” Liggett shared.

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