WILMINGTON, N.C. — Col. Eric Terashima left Afghanistan in early 2020 and retired from his career in the U.S. Marine Corps, but he quickly made it his new mission to help his Afghan interpreters escape the rapidly deteriorating situation there.
What You Need To Know
Col. Terashima began rescuing Afghan interpreters and their families before the situation in Afghanistan became a crisis
Dozens of people being targeted by the Taliban for aiding the U.S. contact him everyday seeking a way out of Afghanistan
The chances of him getting all of his contacts to safety is remote
He hasn’t stopped working over the last few weeks to pull every string possible to get people he knows, and even those he doesn’t, out of the volatile situation. Because the men he is trying to save helped the U.S. military, they are wanted by the Taliban and have targets on their backs — threats that extend to their wives and children as well.
“People who don’t know me are trusting in me, to say ‘Hey, put yourself at risk, travel for 30 hours through Taliban checkpoints, get to the airport that’s crowded, where thousands of people aren’t being admitted and trust in me to help get you through this process,” Terashima said.
Terashima has already sponsored the immigration of 15 people from Afghanistan to the United States, and it does his heart good to see them adapting and settling here. When he faces reality, however, he knows the chances of getting all of his other contacts to safety is slim.
“The last few weeks have been pretty rough. It’s hard not to cry about it everyday when I think about how difficult it is and the level of despair,” Terashima said. “I still get messages and phone calls everyday from folks who are desperate to try to save their lives.”
Through phone conversations you can hear the distress in their voices as they try to figure out a plan of escape that includes getting by Taliban checkpoints – the very people who would see them dead.
“It’s difficult to explain how dire it is over there for people who are as privileged as we are as average Americans,” Terashima said. “To have next to nothing and to be in physical danger under a personal physical threat everyday and to try to be in hiding.”
Terashima shared that even though the United States is officially out of the country, this is not a problem that will go away overnight. As long as he has the means, he will continue to work to rescue those who sacrificed to aid himself and the U.S. military while they were stationed there. When commercial flights open back up, he is prepared to buy plane tickets as needed.
“I can’t put this to rest, these are people’s lives and I’m in a position to help,” Terashima said.