WENTZVILLE, Mo. – A group of Afghan refugees, who moved to St. Louis, recently met with the family of a fallen Marine from Wentzville.
Mark Schmitz lost his son after an attack at the Kabul airport while US troops were withdrawing from Afghanistan. Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz was one of 13 Marines killed in August.
A sense of gratitude filled the room as Mark met with two Afghan families settling in the area. The weight of the moment was not lost on either family, each ready to tell their stories.
Once sitting down, Haseeb, who formerly served as a military translator, introduced everyone.
“As I came to the United States, I feel very comfortable seeing the peace and being in freedom,” said one of the refugees, Yama.“If you were rich or poor in Afghanistan, your life would be in a problem — but here it’s amazing, the peace and the freedom.”
Here, the kids are in school as the parents work full-time.
“We feel very happy,” said Mahooba, another refugee. “We feel very safe. We feel at home. We love it here. It’s amazing being in America with Americans, the loveliest people on earth.”
Despite the growing influx of refugees coming to St. Louis, 50 to 100 refugees land at lambert each week through the end of the year, according to the International Institute. The refugees who met with Mark still have family members in Afghanistan, whom they miss dearly.
“I want them here, but there are no chances for them,” said Haseeb. “It was only for us, that we serve, that we work with the U.S. military and people like Jared sacrificed for us to come here.”
It’s that sacrifice that brought them to Jared’s father, Mark.
“We believe strongly that he was a martyr, and that he was catapulted into heaven and that puts your heart at ease,” said Mark.
Now, the Schmitz family wants to help those like Jared, who put their lines on the line in Afghanistan and around the world.
“There’s no reason, I think, that ever should be a vet that is homeless, for what they did for this country. We are all are indebted to them,” said Schmitz. “This is best way I can think of right now is to pay it forward.”
The Veteran’s Curation Program plans to build 50 homes near a veteran’s hospital in St. Louis to help. The Schmitz family’s goal is to fundraise the money to build 13 in honor of the 13 fallen U.S. Soldiers including Jared.
Schmitz met with two other refugees that came to St. Louis in recent weeks. Those men and the families he met with for this story said they plan to pitch in.
“God bless you, Allah bless you,” said Haseeb. “Thank you.”
Funds are being raised via the foundation: http://www.stlheronetwork.com/help-a-hero