(WKBN) — Since the Taliban overran the Afghan city of Kabul, it’s been a struggle to get refugees out.
One former Army soldier worked with a number of groups that helped get 150 people out, all while working remotely in his home in Ellsworth Township.
Some helped him and other soldiers while they were stationed in Kabul — all through Facebook Messenger.
Rick Stockburger was deployed by the U.S. Army to serve in Afghanistan from 2009 until 2010. He served as a combat advisor to the Afghan Army and alongside the Hungarian Army.
Since he left, he’s kept in close contact with many Afghan interpreters who worked alongside him.
“There’s many times that we were in direct combat alongside of our interpreter and I can very much say that I don’t know if I would be alive if it wasn’t for them communicating,” Stockburger said.
When the U.S. military started to pull out, Stockburger was just one of the soldiers getting messages on Facebook.
The interpreter and their families were not being let out of the city by the Taliban, so working with other U.S. veterans and counterparts in Hungary, they figured out a way to get them out.
“That give them intel that was on the ground to navigate Taliban checkpoints and make sure they could safely get to the airport,” Stockburger said.
It was a 10-day, round-the-clock operation. They worked with a few U.S. lawmakers to get contact inside the airport and then relayed the information back to the interpreter and their families and get them to the proper gates.
Once they were able to get information on the ground they made sure the group was able to avoid the Taliban checkpoints.
“Basically social media and Google Maps. They had put together this map and we could basically see in real time and track the Taliban presence,” Stockburger said.
It wasn’t easy. These veterans also had to get these people food, water and medical supplies. They also tried keeping their spirits up, despite sometimes getting bad information.
But since these interpreters were contracted through the Hungarian Army, they were able to get them out of the city.
“It was because of Hungarian special forces went and did a grab across the canal,” Stockburger said.
Now those veterans are raising money to support these 150 people in Hungary who are in a foreign country with no money, food or support.