Share this story

A Friendship Forged Under Fire

Matt Zeller and Janis Shinwari describe how they forged such a strong bond in Afghanistan.



MZ: Hi, I’m Matt Zeller.

JS: Hi, I’m Janis Shinwari.

MZ: Six years ago, Janis was my translator in Afghanistan when I served there in the war; he actually saved my life when two Taliban fighters were about to kill me.

So for the last five years, I’ve endeavored to get him and his family a visa to move here to the United States. Last October, we were successful and Janis now lives with me here in Washington, D.C. and actually works in our nation’s capital for one of the members of Congress who was instrumental in saving his life.

He went on all of the missions I went on. Anytime I ever had to really talk to anybody else in the country other than him that wasn’t an American, I was speaking through Janis. He was my eyes, my ears and my voice.

JS: I like United States because we are safe. We don’t have to be worried about somebody killing us or about our family. My kids can go to the school. They can get better education here.

MZ: What do we do together? What don’t we do together? Our kids play together. We go on vacation together. We actually run a nonprofit that helps resettle Iraqis and Afghans who served in the wars to free US military forces. We founded that together.
Right now, Afghans can’t bring over their extended family members. They’re only allowed to come with their spouses and their children under the age of 21. So what we’re trying to do is actually amend the law so that, like Iraqis, they could bring their extended family, their moms, their dads, their brothers, their sisters. Approximately around a hundred thousand Afghans who might be eligible for visas to come here, but there’s only nine thousand to handout. We have to get a lot more.

There’s countless people like Janis who have served our country at war, saved people like me. They’ve saved my life in combat and they’ve earned the right to come here and we owe it to them to bring them here as our enemies try and hunt them down as we leave.

We founded an organization called No One Left Behind. Washington, D.C. San Francisco, and actually New York have resettled ten Afghan families, about one family a week. We provided them with a fully furnished apartment. We actually pay the rent for a couple of months and we help them find jobs.

This is answering our nation’s promise to these people to help take care of them when they get here. The greatest joy is being able to watch his kids and my daughter play together. That’s been absolutely amazing. And every time I get to look at these two wonderful kids and know that they’re here now and they’re safe and that we did it, that’s all the reward anyone could ever ask for. And that’s all the thanks that I’ll ever require.

Share this story

Community Newsletter

Get More Inspiration Delivered to Your Inbox

Check out our collection of Guideposts videos and find exclusive celebrity interviews, inspirational stories of hope, and practical life advice.

Randall Liberty, who experienced PTSD following his military service in Iraq, offers tips for recognizing the disorder in friends and loved ones and advice on how to help them find healing.

Donate to change a life together
Scroll to Top