RICHMOND, Va. -- As United States forces pulled out of Afghanistan in August of last year and the Taliban quickly took over, Aaron Thompson immediately thought about his buddy Aman Ahadi.
"He risked his life and the life of his family to help us," Thompson said.
Ahadi worked as an interpreter for the U.S. Military while Thompson was a Marine deployed to Afghanistan.
He formed a brotherhood with Thompson, better known as "Tommy" to Aman, and some of the other Marines.
"He believed in the mission of the U.S. being there trying to help the people of Afghanistan, he believed in the U.S., he also believed in his fellow countrymen, and he wanted to be the liaison," Thompson said.
So Thompson, a 2004 graduate of Miles Godwin High School in Henrico, and the other Marines started texting Ahadi.
"They were in touch with me, texting me, giving me morale. We've got your back, we're going to get you out of there," Ahadi said.
Their efforts had nothing to do with the military. They independently took this on for their brother; a man who dreamed of becoming a U.S. citizen.
"He truly believed, Aman truly believes that this is the land of the free and that he can come here and make something of himself," Thompson, tearing up.
But the journey out did not come without heartbreak.
Shortly after Ahadi and his family escaped, he learned 13 Marines died in a suicide bombing just outside the Kabul airport
"My heart is bleeding for those Marine brothers," Ahadi said in an interview via Zoom, as he started to cry.
"You can see the emotion. He got through right before the attack happened. We can say with confidence the Marines that probably helped him through, some of those Marines ultimately did not make it. They were the ones who got hands-on Aman and his family to make sure he got safe passage," Thompson said as Ahadi wept.
"Marines who made the ultimate sacrifice to help Aman and his family get through, and it's not in vain," Thompson said while tearing up himself.
"I express my deepest condolences to the Marines who lost their lives," Ahadi said.
While coping with that sadness, Ahadi and his family made their way to Lincoln, Nebraska.
As they started their new life in America, Thompson set up a GoFundMe to raise money for a van for the family, and get them whatever supplies they needed.
"I've never done that before, didn't really know the first thing. It took off, I can't thank the folks that I served with enough. Friends, family, strangers out of nowhere coming together to help Aman and his family," Thompson said.
Ahadi, his wife, three daughters and one son are now living the American Dream.
"The land of opportunity. They're able to go to school, in the future continue their higher education, they have freedom, everything, back over there they have nothing," Ahadi said. "We are proud to live in the United States, God Bless America."
"Tommy did everything, we love Tommy, we love Tommy's family, he's our family member," Ahadi said. "He did a lot for us."
"The least we could do for Aman risking it all to protect us and to keep the faith. It was the least we could do for our brother in arms," Thompson said.
To thank Aaron Thompson for his efforts, CBS 6's Melissa Hipolit, with the help of Virginia Credit Union, surprised him with some gift cards to one of his favorite stores: Bass Pro Shop.
"I appreciate this. It was an honor to do that, and I couldn't do it without the support of my family, and especially the Marines that we served with. It was a team effort," Thompson said.
Watch for a new CBS 6 Gives surprise each Monday on CBS 6 News at 4 and 6 p.m. Have an idea about who we should surprise next, click here to email our team.
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