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San Diego Army veteran works to bring home Afghan allies

Posted at 5:19 PM, Aug 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-23 20:53:49-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - San Diego veterans are doing what they can to help get Afghan allies to safety.

Retired Lt. Colonel Dan Wilson spent 26 years with the Army, including 22 as an officer. He said his best experience was while serving in Afghanistan in 2011-2012.

"Everybody has their Aleem Shah," said the Lt. Colonel during a zoom interview Monday afternoon.

Shah was his partnered Afghan Army battalion commander, but to Wilson, he was so much more than his title.

"Everybody had that person that showed them that we're not so much different from each other even though we are culturally vastly different. There's just common threads across humanity that brought us together, and because we were in that situation, it really taught us to value them," said Wilson.

Wilson can share Shah's story without fear of Taliban retribution because Shah was killed by an explosive device in 2013. He's now part of a virtual Army of vets trying to help get Afghan allies to safety.

"I am not a singular experience in terms of what we feel about the Afghan people," said Wilson.

He believes the Special Immigrant Visa program should be expanded and the process expedited.

"We need to be truthful, to just keep repeating that we are going to get as many people out as possible, an Afghan hears, "that means me, and that means now," and it's creating conditions making it more dangerous for our troops on the ground," said Wilson.

He's been trying to reach members of Congress to let them know there are countless veterans willing to help sift through the applications.

"I get that the State Department has a system, but this is not a normal situation, we've got to come up with some very creative solutions, whether we are going to get them out or tell them we are not going to be able to get you out, but tell them," he said.

Wilson said it's not fair to blame the Afghan military for the immediate Taliban take over.

"So many people have said boy, Afghans cut and run, they've shown no courage, they've lost sixty, seventy thousand soldiers and police in 10 years? And Aleem Shah is one of them," said Wilson.

Regardless of all the political turmoil and division, Wilson said this experience has been inspiring.

"It has really restored my faith in Americans, to watch these people come out of nowhere to just try and help and to care, and I think that is the essence of what America is all about."