A MARTINEZ, HOST:
Creating a new life in a new country is a difficult task, but one former interpreter from Afghanistan is settling into his new home in the U.S. Here's Steve Walsh with member station KPBS in San Diego.
AUTOMATED VOICE: Turn right on North Carolina 150.
STEVE WALSH, BYLINE: Lucky, a former interpreter for U.S. forces, sits in the passenger seat of a tractor trailer on a drive through North Carolina. We're only using his nickname, the one provided by U.S. troops, since he still has family back in Afghanistan.
So how do you like truck driving?
LUCKY: It's good. I like it. It's not that bad. The only thing - I had no other option.
WALSH: Lucky is training to be a long-haul truck driver. He settled into San Diego after receiving a visa in 2017. He's now rebooting his life in America after a recent harrowing escape from his former homeland.
LUCKY: I was stuck there. I tried to get out from there as soon as possible.
WALSH: Lucky hadn't expected to return to Afghanistan, but his mother fell seriously ill.
LUCKY: My brother called me that she is asking for your, and she's in hospital. I don't know if she's going to make it. So I just decided to go there in emergency for week or 10 days.
WALSH: So he took a chance, thinking the U.S. wouldn't pull out until September. He even brought his young children, but things changed almost overnight. By mid-August, Lucky was trapped when his village fell to the Taliban. True to his nickname, Lucky and his family were helped by American veterans who stepped in to guide their former translators out of the country. He made it out, although many didn't.
ERIC SCHWARTZ: The Afghans, like other refugee groups, will become, you know, important contributors to American society...
WALSH: Eric Schwartz is president of Refugees International.
SCHWARTZ: ...Help address labor shortage issues in places like the middle of the country, where there are real challenges in that regard. So this will be a good-news story.
WALSH: They are also one of the groups calling for a pathway to citizenship for Afghans being processed through U.S. military bases who don't qualify for other programs like special immigration visas, also, 5 billion to aid in resettlement. They also want the president to raise the total number of refugees allowed in the U.S. to 200,000 for the next two years, a relatively modest increase given the tens of thousands of Vietnamese who immigrated to the U.S. after the war.
LUCKY: We have a small refrigerator here. Let me show you. My wife cooked some food for me, and I put them here in the refrigerator.
WALSH: Lucky gives me a virtual tour from inside the truck. As the sun was going down in North Carolina, we talked as the truck was being unloaded.
LUCKY: To be honest, I'm still not a normal - like I cannot even sleep maybe, like, two hours, three hours after that situation that I went through and my kids.
WALSH: In San Diego, he had been a translator for the Afghan community. That ended when he was trapped in Afghanistan. His new life is now in Texas, where he lives with his brother-in-law. He says it's been tougher on the kids, especially his young daughter.
LUCKY: They don't involve. They don't play with kids. They're scared. And I took her to a doctor because she was not eating. She jumped when she was sleeping. She jumped when she feels she's still in Afghanistan.
WALSH: Still in Afghanistan, like his mother, who did pull through. Although Lucky doesn't think he'll ever see his home country again, he's focused on his family's future here.
For NPR News, I'm Steve Walsh.
(SOUNDBITE OF EMILIE LEVIENAISE-FARROUCH'S "VESTIGES")