‘A good future for my family’: Afghan refugees share worries and hopes from Fort McCoy

FORT MCCOY, Wis. – Sometimes life’s circumstances make our decisions for us.

“Before I get to Wisconsin I was concerned about my life,” said Nasir, an interpreter from Afghanistan who worked with the U.S. military.

Abdulhadi Pageman, a military pilot who helped support the U.S. in Afghanistan, talked about the risks he and those like him face, noting that others in his position had been killed by the Taliban after he was able to escape.

“I came to decision. This was the only way to flee the country, come to the U.S,” Pageman said.

With nearly 13,000 people from Afghanistan now safe at Fort McCoy, the challenges don’t stop.

“She’s saying, I’m doing nothing, just laying in my room. There’s nothing to do,” said a translator for Farzana Mohammadi.

Mohammadi is a young woman who played wheelchair basketball in Afghanistan and plans to study to be a psychologist.

“The biggest challenge for the Afghan immigrants is language,” Pageman said. “They will integrate into society day by day.”

Day by day, the former military pilot worries about his loved ones back home.

“My family is not with me. I am by myself,” Pageman said. “Yes, yes, I am worried about everything.”

The days at Fort McCoy also bolster hope.

“When my paperwork is done, I go from here and start new settlement, new life in the United States and find a job,” Pageman said. “If I get an opportunity to fly here or working with aviation sectors, I am happy.”

“I am so happy I come to America,” Nasir said.

Nasir’s time at Fort McCoy has reunited him with Lt. Col. Joe Mickley, a squadron commander based in Kentucky now playing a role in Task Force McCoy.

“Nasir was my interpreter specifically. It turns into a very special relationship. We were like brothers,” Mickley said. “I believe it was the second day I was here we got to see each other for the first time in 10 years. I got to meet his family, his little children and his wife.”

Nasir has three children: two sons and one daughter.

“I’m hoping we can resettle Nasir by us and our family and we get to see his children grow up,” Mickley said.

“My brothers always try to help me. He is ready right now to help me as a brother,” Nasir said. “I’m pretty sure I will have a good future for my family.”

Opportunities are opening up, too, for Mohammadi, who’s ready to get back to playing basketball and studying — two things she says the Taliban would not allow women.

“I love this country,” she said.

She’s eager for a future full of choices.

“She’s saying when she was a kid she would say she wants to go to America,” her translator said, “but she never thought her dream would come true.”