SWFL veteran hopes for family’s safe evacuation of Afghanistan

Reporter: Andrea Guerrero Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Military veteran Mariam Vantiem. Credit: WINK News.

People are trying to evacuate Afghanistan and are begging for help. Those with family in the country worry they’re stuck there. We spoke to a woman in Southwest Florida who served in the military as a translator and hopes her family is safe as the situation escalates in the Middle East.

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is personal to veteran Mariam Vantiem in Cape Coral.

Vantiem’s family has spent the last three days at the airport in Kabul, trying to leave the country. Gunshots could be heard in a recording Vantiem’s family sent her.

“It’s scary because … I have been there,” Vantiem said. “I have seen what kind of people these people are, and they just don’t have a heart, and it’s really scary to live under a government like that.”

Vantiem’s parents moved to the U.S. more than 20 years ago. She returned to her native county in an American uniform as a translator during the war. She told us all the good the United States did in Afghanistan is gone, or soon will be.

“We develop schools for them, brought a lot of differences and a lot of help for them,” Vantiem said. “And there was hope for them that they had their freedom and that everything was going to be OK, and they were going to go forward. And unfortunately, this is where we are right now.”

Some members of Congress called on President Joe Biden Friday to extend the security perimeter beyond the Kabul airport, so more Afghan refugees could make it the airport for evacuation.

Vantiem’s family is now among the thousands stuck waiting and praying.

“They’re all frustrated,” Vantiem said. “They’re all hopeless, and we cannot do much. I wish we could.”

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