THORNTON, Colo. (AP) – Navy veteran Jordon Daniel was busy as the United States withdrew its last troops from Afghanistan in late August.
More than 7,000 miles (11,265 kilometers) and a world away, he and a group of other veterans moved furniture, folded towels, and sorted silverware into drawers during a hot, dry summer day in the Denver area.
Their mission: to provide homes for Afghan refugees seeking security in the United States.
Daniel had just finished decorating the last of three or four homes for refugees that day when he received a warning on his cell phone that the last U.S. military plane had left Kabul after two decades of war.
“I sat in my truck and just sat there and reflected a bit,” said Daniel, who enlisted in the Navy after 9/11 and spent time in Afghanistan on a security detail. “You know, 20 years of war, America’s longest war is coming to an end. And you know, for me it was kind of running around.”
On Wednesday, Daniel and volunteers from veteran-focused disaster relief organization Team Rubicon continued their mission, called Operation Eagle Landing, by furnishing two suburban apartments in Denver that will soon house Afghan families who left their homeland to escape Taliban rule.
The team assembled furniture, washed up, dragged heavy sofas and dressers up stairs, and carefully placed donated backpacks and stuffed animals on children’s beds. A family of eight must live in one apartment and a family of five must live in the other.
Since August, Team Rubicon has helped settle more than 110 Afghan families in Colorado, said Daniel, Denver’s city administrator for the group.
Tens of thousands of Afghans have been flown to the United States since the war ended, and most still live in temporary housing at military bases across the country. Between 1,000 and 2,000 Afghan refugees are expected to arrive in Colorado by the end of the year.
This means that Daniel and his team can have their work cut out for them – a task they seem to like.
“For us veterans, service is a bit in our blood. … The veteran component, it adds that special piece of camaraderie to it, that sense of service, that sense of purpose,” Daniel said. help those who helped coalition forces in Afghanistan during the war.
“It’s just a chance for us to also express our gratitude. And just thank them and welcome them to the neighborhood.”
Team Rubicon was formed in the days following a magnitude 7.0 earthquake that caused extensive damage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in January 2010, according to the group’s website. The Haitian government estimates the death toll at more than 300,000, although an accurate estimate was impossible given the extensive devastation.
Two U.S. Marines, Jake Wood and William McNulty, gathered supplies and volunteers before traveling to Haiti the following days, and Team Rubicon was born. It has since grown into an international non-profit organization boasting more than 130,000 volunteers.