Afghan family welcomed into East TN, thanks to Clinton Marine

Tennessee

CLINTON, Tenn. (WATE) — A family from Afghanistan is now safe and living in Clinton after a U.S. Marine and some of his friends helped them escape. Back in August, Travis Ervin worked diligently from his home in Clinton to help evacuate his translator’s family. He was able to do so hours before the attack at the Kabul airport, which killed 13 servicemembers.

That family has now been in East Tennessee for two weeks, adjusting to their new lives pretty well, all things considered.

“Here we are. We ride bikes every day, we pick up toys every day and the kids run around here and run around in the grass,” Ervin said.

Ervin and his girlfriend Keely Elledge said it was an adjustment. They’re used to living in their home, just the two of them. Now, they have a full house with three little kids running around, and delicious family meals every night with Rana’s, the mom, cooking. They couldn’t be happier knowing the family is safe. It’s pretty interesting for them to see what is exciting and new to the family of four.

“For instance, just in this house they, you know, we have an ice maker. They’ve never seen that before. They’ve never had mattresses before,” Ervin said.

Indoor plumbing, air conditioning and heat, a lot of technology and something even like a can opener was new to the family. Education was also a big deal.

“Even just watching Neda go to school, where in Afghanistan the women aren’t able to go to school, right now especially. It’s just a miracle. You’re witnessing a miracle,” Elledge said.

Elledge said the family is learning quickly, and along the way they’re teaching her and Ervin some new words as well. “Neda, the 6-and-a-half-year-old is just, she teaches me new words every day,” Elledge said.

Video of Neda teaching Keely Elledge some her language. The family speaks a variety of languages. Video courtesy of Keely Elledge.

Ervin said Neda wants to be a doctor, and looks up to Elledge because she’s a nurse. He said that’s not something Neda would have seen over in Afghanistan. “It’s cool to be able to give her a boost up to accomplish those goals,” Ervin said.

While most of their new life so far has been great, it’s not all easy. The family is still learning English, Rana is working to get her driver’s license and a job. But, there is a lot of red tape still in the way, plus the issue of money to consider.

“Hiring immigration lawyers which are tough to find right now. This money will go towards them buying a vehicle, clothes, food, basic necessities that human beings need to survive,” Ervin said.

On top of that, the family is still without their dad, Ervin’s interpreter. “They haven’t seen their dad for two years. Rana has not seen her husband in two years. And so, the hardest part is just watching her be sad,” Elledge said.

The family came to America with nothing, but thanks to the Clinton community, they had some new clothes, toiletries, beds and backpacks. Ervin and Elledge said the family needs a little more help to reach their goal of getting on their feet, living in a place on their own and being self-sufficient. With the community’s help, this family could rebuild and stay safe.

“They talk about how lucky they are every day and how grateful they are for uh, just the American people rallying behind them,” Ervin said.

He said it’s unclear when his interpreter will be able to come to East Tennessee from overseas. Right now, they are simply waiting on government paperwork to be processed. As far as Rana’s brothers, Ervin said they are now living in Knoxville after the Bridge Refugee Services helped them out.

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