CINCINNATI — A former Afghan translator living in the Tri-State earned citizenship, a surprise reunion and an opportunity to ease a significant worry.
Patrick Seiler came to Cincinnati from his home in Pennsylvania on a mission. Before a U.S. district court naturalization ceremony downtown Friday, Seiler surprised his "brother" Shafaq Hassan, who worked closely with Master Sgt. Seiler during his Air Force days in Afghanistan 12 years ago.
After an eight-year struggle to become an American, Hassan, who now lives and works in Cincinnati as a construction project manager, walked into his naturalization ceremony sensing new opportunity.
"My dream with this day," Hassan said. "From now on or from today or from the next day, I can help my family overseas a little faster."
There are people starving, freezing and selling kidneys to survive in his homeland. Five months after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he sees a humanitarian crisis growing dire.
"We are in a race against time to help the Afghan people," Guterres said.
A better life motivated Hassan to help the U.S. military in Kabul. It is why he worked with Seiler and why the Air Force veteran made it a personal duty to get his friend a Special Immigrant Visa, clear years of hurdles to citizenship and be present for Hassan's biggest day.
"I have to give credit to my wife," Seiler said. "I was talking about it all week. I said, man, I wish there was a way I could be (there). I (have to) be there for Shafaq. About three o'clock in the morning I woke up and I look at my email. It was an email from United Airlines with a ticket to come here. (My wife) said you're going."
"I cannot find a word on that," Hassan said. "I can only say I was the luckiest person."