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Afghan translator expresses gratitude for daughters' education, first Thanksgiving in America

Afghan translator expresses gratitude to American daughters for their education. First Thanksgiving in America


Zabiullah R. served three months ago as a combat translation for the 82nd Airborne. AfghanistanHe and his family did not know what the future would bring after U.S. military withdrawal.   

Zabiullah was affectionately called Johnny by the troops. He managed to flee Kabul in August with the support of a U.S. senator and a private veterans group. Johnny and his family arrived at their new North Carolina residence in October.   

He is now able to offer his daughters an education that they would not have had under Taliban conditions.   


“They’re happy and they’re excited,” said Johnny. “Every morning … 6 o’clock in the morning, my two daughters, they wake up and get ready … just come into my room and wake up us.”  

Johnny said that the girls often ask Johnny to accompany them on weekends.  

Johnny replied, “I tell em, they have to be home for two days,” They keep asking me, “We would like to go to school. We love school. They have good friends at school. We would love to have fun with them. They are our friends.  

The community in North Carolina welcomed his daughters to the new school, Weddington. Many of those soldiers Johnny served with are still living nearby.   

Rea View Elementary students and their families eagerly awaited Johnny’s wife and three little girls. They were greeted with greetings in Dari and hand-made signs.  

Classmates and local families greet daughters of Afghan interpreter.

It was quiet as if you could hear the pin drop when they arrived. Jennifer Parker, Rea View elementary school principal recounts, “And the girls got out the car, then they walked over, and of course they smiled, beaming, ear to ear.” My families and my children were just waving in their native tongues and saying hi to each other.  

Their soccer team is the same as that of the Sgt. Mike Verardo with Sarah, his wife.   

Johnny holds 508th Infantry Regiment flag with wounded veteran Mike Verardo.

Johnny worked as a translator in Verardo’s office. Verardo was injured in Afghanistan’s Arghandab in 2010, and Johnny sustained a traumatic brain injury. After serving in the 508th Infantry Regment of the United States Army during World War II, Mike underwent more than 100 procedures at Walter Reed. Johnny and Mike have three daughters.  

Their daughters and neighbors are now best friends.   

“Seeing our six girls play together, six little girls whose dads served together, shoulder-to-shoulder in Afghanistan, has healed all of our hearts a little bit more each day,” said Sarah Verardo, Mike’s wife and CEO of The Independence Fund and Co-Founder of Save our Allies. These children show us all what it is to love everyone. 

The girls trick-or-treat for the first and have now started to play with their friends after school.  

Muzhdah, Muzhgan, and Asra trick-or-treating with their new American friends.

It was the United States’ first Halloween. Johnny stated that the children were excited. They went house-to-house for Halloween to get to know other families and kids.  

Muzhdah (aged 7 and Muzhgan (aged 5), did not speak English when they first arrived at school.  

Google Translate is missing Dari so this has been quite an adventure. There are a lot hand gestures and pictures. It feels like we are playing charades every day. However, it takes little steps to help them get to the point. They are now beginning to grasp the concept,” Parker said. “Last Week, Muzhdah really said an entire sentence in English.  

What was her first sentence?  

“‘I like pizza. Parker confirmed that Muzhdah enjoys pizza.   

Parker states that Muzhdah, Muzhgan don’t take anything for granted 

Muzghan with her sisters at school.

“Sometimes kids are like, ‘Oh, I don’t feel good, I don’t want to go to school.’ And to them, it’s such a privilege. Parker stated that for girls, the privilege of coming to school everyday and learning, in particular, makes them so happy and a sponge. We talk a lot this time of the year about gratitude. The family’s gratitude is evident in this.  

Johnny claims that his daughters embrace their freedoms.  

“A hijab … [Muzhdah]But, that’s not what I intend to do. I desire to feel more liberated. Johnny said, “I’m going live in freedom.”  


One Afghan family’s Thanksgiving brought such joy to North Carolina communities who helped them begin a new life in America.  

Johnny said, “I am grateful that I’m safe here.” “I’m thankful for this first Thanksgiving that I’m here with family.”  


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