TEHACHAPI, Calif. (KERO) — Thursday morning, 13 US service members were killed at the Hamid Karzai International Airport. Many more Afghans who were standing at the airport trying to evacuate were injured and killed.
Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan two weeks ago, one local man in Tehachapi has been trying to help families get to safety.
“I’ve taken 6 days of personal leave to do this and if I had much more leave, I would take the rest of my life to do this,” said veteran Rob Howells.
Howells has been employed with the US government for the past four decades and spent and spent four years in Afghanistan.
“While I was over there, I had the opportunity to work shoulder to shoulder, both with American guys, but most of us are back home and safe, but shoulder to shoulder with other guys. That really kept me out of a lot of hot water when things could have gotten really bad,” said Howells.
Howells says he is disappointed about how the administration has handled the evacuation and wants to do whatever he can to help families in need.
“I never had dreamed that we would have an evacuation plan that did not wholeheartedly include ensuring that these guys would be brought to safety in one way, shape or form,” said Howell.
He helps with visa paperwork, giving updates to people on the ground there, and gets details from them to help with visas. Howells said that with the complicated evacuation situation now, even US citizens, green card holders, special immigrant visas, or SVI holders and applicants are not able to get to the airport safely and board the flights out.
“If there is any inkling out there that only the people who are left are the ones that want to remain there, that is bologna. There are tons, thousands of people that need to be rescued from behind enemy lines to this day," said Howells.
Even in a personal capacity, he wants to make sure he is doing everything he can to keep these families safe and where they want to be.
Howells said that even if these families need a place to stay once, they reach the US, his home is open to them.
“Any person that's on my list that needs a place to stay, we have a big house. Not enough to hold 125 people but we'll figure it out. All of them can come,” said Howells.