COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Politicians on both sides of the aisle have been fighting to bring Afghan refugees to the U.S. and they are getting some help now from a remarkable woman right here in central Ohio.
There are infinite ways to describe a woman we see as remarkable and for this nominee, the list seems nearly as long. She was born in Afghanistan, immigrated to the U.S. when she was 13, and four years later she was inspired to serve her new home in the U.S. Air Force, a nearly 26-year military career, that’s remarkable enough. But that’s not why we’re getting to know her now.
It’s one thing to see human suffering and feel sympathy. It’s quite another to witness scenes of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan and be moved to action. Such is the way of our third nominated Remarkable Woman. We are calling her “Annie,” though, that’s not a real name, the reason will be apparent in this story.
Annie has always been known by friends and family as a woman of action. When COVID hit she was the one they turned to for help. Navigating all the unknowns, from filing for unemployment to filing taxes.
“I know this is weird, I was going to get my degree in accounting and I like to do taxes, so word got out, so I started doing taxes for people,” she said.
When most of the world saw COVID as the number one crisis in their lives, a more urgent one emerged for Annie and those in her birthplace.
“And then obviously, August 15 happened,” she said.
The collapse of Afghanistan’s government to the Taliban.
“A lot of us that saw it with our own eyes, especially those first few days, where we were, you know, my own relatives were trying to get through the gate at Kabul and can’t get through the airport and hearing the shooting,” she recalled. “To say it’s heartbreaking, it doesn’t even really come close.”
Annie worked day and night coordinating efforts to get the right papers into the hands of Afghan refugees. She also connected with other veterans and nonprofits doing the same work despite the risks of potential Taliban retribution.
“Without getting into specifics, because of security risks stuff like that, you know, within these groups we saved hundreds and thousands of lives already,” she said. “Not just from starvation but providing, you know, a little bit of safe places to stay and things like that.”
Annie was surprised and humbled to be nominated as a Remarkable Woman.
“I learned a long time ago you let your actions speak for themselves instead of your words,” she said. “If you are successful reach back and help somebody else be successful. And that’s where the humanity comes in, we’re blessed, we have everything we need. But we’ve got to reach back and help the ones that don’t necessarily have everything they need.”