Colonel Shooresh, a member of the Afghan Air Corps, knew he had only one good option at finding medical assistance for his mentally disabled son. He went to the most powerful source that he had access to, his American friend, USAF Captain Sean Roehrs.
His request was to have his 8-year-old son, Khaled, flown to the United States for evaluation and treatment, even surgery, if necessary. Khaled, in addition to being mentally challenged, also suffered from daily seizures.
Making no promises, Captain Roehrs simply stated, “Let me see what I can do.”
Afghanistan, itself disabled by 30 years of war, Taliban influence and severe lack of education, has few resources to deal with citizens who suffer from any disease or disability. Resources for patients with mental disabilities are even harder to find.
But, after months of investigating possibilities and plowing through paperwork it was final. Col. Shooresh’s request had been granted. Young Khaled would leave his war-torn homeland for the United States of America; Olympia, Washington, specifically.
Col. Shooresh fully understood that just getting his son to the U.S. was not necessarily a cure but more like a ray of hope; a chance at a firm diagnosis and maybe a revised treatment plan.
In July, Khaled arrived in America with his 18-year-old brother, Abed, who came as his guardian, his translator and his personal assistant.
To say that Khaled had been coddled by his family at home might be a leap, but what is known, is that at age 8, Khaled was rocked to sleep for his afternoon naps and at bedtime. He arrived not knowing how to feed himself or put on his own shoes.
Things are improving for the boy whose family now knows that sadly, his condition is genetic and not correctable by surgery.
However, with medication, Khaled’s seizure frequency has been reduced to two or three a month. He is showing signs of being more independent. He has attended a kindergarten class at Olympia’s Pioneer Elementary School. With a sense of humor he now feeds and dresses himself.
It’s unlikely that Khaled will ever live independently, but his life will most assuredly be easier because of the kindness, tenacity and generosity of Air Force Captain Sean Roehrs, his family in Olympia, and the community that embraced and welcomed him.
Khaled and Abed have spent the last 5-6 months with the Roehrs family (parents of Cpt. Roehrs) but will return to Herat, Afghanistan, on Tuesday, January 11.
For Col. Shooresh, it is mission accomplished. His son came to America for a diagnosis and will return to Afghanistan with a treatment plan and improved life-skills.
Examiner’s Note: Deployed American servicemen and women have been lending a hand to Afghan and Iraqi families since the wars began.
The rules are clear. U.S. military bases are not hospitals for locals. However, desperate Afghans and Iraqis often turn to the men and women with the biggest hearts and the largest resources.
Afghanistan is the second worst country in the world to be a child, coming in right behind Sierra Leone.