Afghan translator who saved the lives of five American troops becomes a U.S. citizen

For some people, every day is Independence Day. For Janis Shinwari, this will be his first 4th of July as an American citizen. And boy, he earned it.

"If I was in Afghanistan—if I didn't come here, I wouldn't be alive now. I would be dead." Shinwari told CNN Heroes in 2018. Shinwari risked his life for nine years serving as a translator for U.S. forces in his native country of Afghanistan. He risked his life everyday knowing that should he be caught by the Taliban, the consequences would be severe. "If the Taliban catch you, they will torture you in front of your kids and families and make a film of you." Shinwari said. "Then [they'll] send it to other translators as a warning message to stop working with the American forces."


But his bravery didn't stop there. Just ask Captain Matt Zeller. During a routine patrol near the small village of Waghez, Zeller's unit was attacked by the Taliban. They were both out numbered and out gunned. Zeller found himself in a ditch after losing consciousness from a mortar explosion. As he slowly started gaining back his consciousness, he accepted the reality that he was probably going lose his life. He had no idea how close he really was. Unbeknownst to him, there were two Taliban fighters approaching him. Then gun fire came from the bushes killing them both. The blasts came from the gun of Janis Shinwari.

"I was going to make sort of peace with my fate and I was going to go out fighting," Zeller told CNN. That was when he found Shinwari standing above him uttering the words, "I am Janis and I am one of your translators. You are not safe." Even though they had just met days prior, it was the beginning of an unbreakable bond. "Since that time, we become even closer than brothers," Shinwari explained to CNN.

After the incident, the Taliban put Shinwari on a hit list along with other translators working with the United States military. He reached out to Zeller with hopes of getting a visa to be able to come to America. Shinwari, with a bounty on his head, was hoping the process would take months, but it took years instead. It was not for lack of effort from the man who's life he saved. Zeller knew he owed Shinwari his life and was determined to help get him to the United States.

"I just basically asked anyone who would listen, 'Will you help me? I owe this person my life. I'm willing to do whatever it takes. I will cash in and call in whatever favor. I will owe whatever it is that I need to owe. Tell me what it is that I need to do to get you to help me,'" Zeller told CNN. Then in 2013 it happened. Janis Shinwari obtained a visa and his family were finally headed to America.

As soon as Shinwari and his family arrived in America, the country they now call home, Zeller helped them find a car, a job and even started a GoFundMe page that raised over $35,000 to make sure their transition to the U.S. was a smooth one. But Shinwari couldn't stop thinking about the other translators back in Afghanistan putting their lives on the line for U.S. soldiers.

The two men with an inseparable bond started No One Left Behind, which is a non-profit to help get translators working for the U.S. military a safe haven in America. "We are happy. But I'm not happy about my coworkers, about my brothers and sisters that served the US government in Afghanistan and Iraq, and they are still left behind," Shinwari said. "I will fight for them, to get them here. And we will not stop fighting. It doesn't matter how long does it take. But I will fight for them."

So far the group has come to the aid of over 5,000 translators and their families to navigate the visa process to the United States. They offer support including permanent housing, furniture, employment and language skills. Shinwari adds, "I will not stop fighting until I get the last translator what's left behind. I promise them that I will never forget about my brothers and sisters that they are still left behind in Iraq and Afghanistan."

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Frito-Lay

Did you know one in five families are unable to provide everyday essentials and food for their children? This summer was also the hungriest on record with one in four children not knowing where their next meal will come from – an increase from one in seven children prior to the pandemic. The effects of COVID-19 continue to be felt around the country and many people struggle to secure basic needs. Unemployment is at an all-time high and an alarming number of families face food insecurity, not only from the increased financial burdens but also because many students and families rely on schools for school meal programs and other daily essentials.

This school year is unlike any other. Frito-Lay knew the critical need to ensure children have enough food and resources to succeed. The company quickly pivoted to expand its partnership with Feed the Children, a leading nonprofit focused on alleviating childhood hunger, to create the "Building the Future Together" program to provide shelf-stable food to supplement more than a quarter-million meals and distribute 500,000 pantry staples, school supplies, snacks, books, hand sanitizer, and personal care items to schools in underserved communities.

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Those of us who value facts, reason, and rational thought have found ourselves at some of our fellow citizens and thinking, "Really? THIS is how you choose to use the greatest tool humanity has ever created? To spew unfounded conspiracy theories?"

It's a marvel, truly.

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In 1945, the world had just endured the bloodiest war in history. World leaders were determined to not repeat the mistakes of the past. They wanted to build a better future, one free from the "scourge of war" so they signed the UN Charter — creating a global organization of nations that could deter and repel aggressors, mediate conflicts and broker armistices, and ensure collective progress.

Over the following 75 years, the UN played an essential role in preventing, mitigating or resolving conflicts all over the world. It faced new challenges and new threats — including the spread of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, a Cold War and brutal civil wars, transnational terrorism and genocides. Today, the UN faces new tensions: shifting and more hostile geopolitics, digital weaponization, a global pandemic, and more.

This slideshow shows how the UN has worked to build peace and security around the world:

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Malians wait in line at a free clinic run by the UN Multidimensional Integrated Mission in Mali in 2014. Over their 75 year history, UN peacekeepers have deployed around the world in military and nonmilitary roles as they work towards human security and peace. Here's a look back at their history.

Photo credit: UN Photo/Marco Dormino

It sounds like a ridiculous, sensationalist headline, but it's real. In Cheshire County, New Hampshire, a transsexual, anarchist Satanist has won the GOP nomination for county sheriff. Aria DiMezzo, who refers to herself as a "She-Male" and whose campaign motto was "F*** the Police," ran as a Republican in the primary. Though she ran unopposed on the ballot, according to Fox News, she anticipated that she would lose to a write-in candidate. Instead, 4,211 voters filled in the bubble next to her name, making her the official Republican candidate for county sheriff.

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Katie Neeves (L) photo by Jayne Walsh, JK Rowling (R) photo by Sjhill, CC BY-SA 3.0

Dear JK Rowling,

I am writing this letter to say a big thank you to you. You may think it strange that a gobby trans woman such as me would wish to thank you after all your recent transphobic outpourings, but let me explain…

I certainly don't thank you for your lengthy essay last month where you describe the abuse you have suffered (for which you have my sympathy) and in which you stated that you do not hate trans people, while at the same time peddling even more anti-trans mis-information. Sadly, your diatribe directly caused some trans children to self-harm and other to attempt suicide.

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