BROOMFIELD, Colo. — After an Afghan translator finally made it to safety in Colorado, the former Army captain from Broomfield who helped make it happen is reflecting on the months-long effort.
"For the first time since 2007, it became real. It went from concept to theory to reality," Scott Henkel said.
Ahmad "Kevin" Siddiqi and his family were welcomed to Colorado at the Denver International Airport Tuesday night. The family had to travel from the Kabul airport, to Qatar, Italy and New Jersey before coming to Colorado.
"To actually pull this off is a huge accomplishment, and I’m extraordinarily proud of the Broomfield community and Colorado community to be able to come together and unify behind this one cause — to get Kevin and his family home. We did it," Henkel said.
The journey has been years in the making. Siddiqi had been waiting since 2005 for a visa to come to the United States. He and and Henkel met in Afhghanistan and completed more than 400 missions together in 2006 and 2007.
Late this summer as the Taliban started to take over Afghanistan, Siddiqi sent a message to Henkel pleading for help getting his family out of the country.
Henkel and his wife, Broomfield Councilwoman Heidi Henkel, contacted Reps. Joe Neguse and Jason Crow, who have been assisting in bringing Afghan interpreters and others with Special Immigrant visas to the U.S.
All of the effort paid off Tuesday night when Siddiqi, his wife and four kids arrived at DIA. Just minutes after the family walked up the escalator, Henkel and Siddiqi’s kids were already bonding. It's a moment the two men thought would never happen.
"Kevin mentioned this last night. He said, 'Hey sir, do you remember when we were eating at Mari’s and all of a sudden we were in a fire fight?' as we were talking about how cool it would be if our kids got to play together," Henkel said. "I remember that conversation literally because boards were flying over my head shortly after, but I remember talking about that thinking how fantastic that would be."
Yet, Henkel said his fondest memory of Tuesday night came when Siddiqi’s 3-year-old daughter walked into their new home, which was paid for with donations.
"When the 3-year-old squealed when she saw the house and the room and the bed for the first time in two months, that to me was the best part," Henkel said.
The kids will now begin acclimating to their new lives by starting school on Thursday. As for Siddiqi, he can now take a deep breath.
"For these kids to be in Colorado, I did something. they’re going to be fine for the rest of their life," Siddiqi said after arriving at DIA Tuesday.
"Being able to sit down on the couch, just seeing Kevin exhale for the first time when he just kind of sat back and took a deep breath," Henkel said. "It’s like, we did it."
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