CLINTON, Tenn. — When Travis Ervin left Afghanistan in 2010, he thought his mission in the war-torn country was complete. But this former Marine, who was tasked with clearing the cities of Marjah and Sangin from the Taliban, has found himself on a new mission: rescuing the interpreter he went to combat with.
As the country fell back into the hands of the Taliban in August, Ervin and his girlfriend began working to get his interpreter and his interpreter's family safely out of the country.
Because circumstances are still incredibly dangerous, Ervin asked that his interpreter's name not be published for this story.
"He was in gunfights with me, I've seen him pick up my dead Marines and carry them to a helicopter, and we’re just going to leave this guy and leave his family. It’s up to the American people to do this, to help these people," Ervin said, holding back tears.
For two months, Ervin and his girlfriend deployed all their backchannel resources in an effort to rescue his interpreter and his family. Eventually, he was able to get the interpreter's family to the airport in Kabul. It was a painstakingly dangerous process that finally got them to the United States.
Last week, the family arrived in East Tennessee, where they are now refugees living in Ervin's home.
"We wake up and hear the kids running around. It was like, 'This is the greatest day of my life,' being woken up by these kids," he said.
Ervin’s basement has been converted into a bedroom and prayer room. This family, who’s never had electricity before, is now starting a new life. Community donations for everything from food to clothes to toys for the kids have been pouring in.
In an effort to help the family with legal fees and housing costs, a GoFund Mehas been created aimed at raising $150,000.
"You have to understand that these people come from real oppression," he added.
But the mission is far from over. While Ervin was able to get his interpreter's wife and kids safely to Tennessee, his interpreter was separated from the family during Afghanistan's collapse and remains overseas.
"I will always help the Afghan people, always. These people need our help. It’s not up to the government. People think the government will come in with a cape and help. That's not going to happen. We need to help these people," he said passionately.
But Ervin is determined to not lose sight of the major victory that’s already been accomplished. The mere fact that this family is here that a 7-year-old daughter is starting school in America, is a victory within itself.
"Research Afghanistan and women going to school and think about this little girl going into a classroom. We’re so lucky. This family is so lucky; it’s hard to put into words. It really is," he added.
Travis Ervin’s latest mission may still not be complete, this is a victory he will savor for now.