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An Oklahoma love story: Afghanistan refugee reuniting with her Army veteran husband in Grand Lake
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An Oklahoma love story: Afghanistan refugee reuniting with her Army veteran husband in Grand Lake

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GROVE — On her third attempt to flee Afghanistan, a new bride defied the odds to escape her war-torn homeland and is now looking forward the prospect of living peacefully with her Army veteran husband on Grand Lake.

Their love story hasn’t been a simple one.

He’s now retired from the Army in a waterfront home in Grove, but in 2017 Hans Wright was a senior noncommissioned officer working with an Afghan American-owned agency to help with the Afghan Life Support Services Program.

Hans Wright

Wright

“This is where I met my wife,” said Wright, one of two Americans working at the company in downtown Kabul. “She was the human resources manager of ACCL-International. ...

“The Afghan culture does not permit a relationship with western cultures,” he said. “At work we always maintained a professional relationship.”

But they eventually fell in love and got married April 7, 2021, in Dubai.

The Tulsa World is not identifying Wright’s wife for fear of reprisal against family members who remain in Afghanistan.

“After our marriage, we were under the impression that the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan would stay intact and that the U.S. Embassy would remain open, Wright said.

This would allow the continuation of the visa process, he said.

However, Wright’s company was ordered to have all employees out of Afghanistan by June 2.

“After I returned to Oklahoma, things in Afghanistan started to change very fast,” Wright said. “The GIRoA completely collapsed, and the U.S. decided to close the embassy.”

A Muslim from Afghanistan who had helped Americans during the war, Wright’s wife knew she would need to try to escape after being told Aug. 14 that evacuations of U.S. military personnel would begin.

At the airport, she found thousands of people desperately trying to make their way to the front of the lines, Wright said.

“They waited for about 10 hours before the Taliban arrived and gunfire ensued,” Wright said of his wife and her sisters.

The crowd became frantic as people started running for their lives to get away. During the commotion, his wife tripped and was trampled, Wright said.

“Her sister noticed that she had fallen and fought the crowd making her way to her,” he said. “She saved her life by somehow lifting her up and dragging her out of the crowd.”

Wright said his wife was in pain, badly bruised, but they lived through their failed flight attempt. However, the Taliban managed to follow the sisters home and demanded to search their residence.

“They had hidden all documents relating to the U.S. just days before,” Wright said.

Five days later, her name now on a Taliban list after the search, Wright’s wife attempted her second escape along with others who had aided American efforts in Afghanistan.

Wright said he had gotten in touch with Afghan Commando Officers; a brigadier general in Herat province was being hunted by the Taliban while trying to flee with his family.

“I told him that I was trying to get my wife out, as well,” Wright said. “So we made a plan that he and his family would travel with my wife.”

About 100 meters from the closed gates of the airport in Kabul, they waited all night and most of the following day, he said, before giving up to plan a third attempt.

Destiny landed Wright’s wife and her interpreter in front of an American soldier. She handed the solider her cellphone: On the other line was Wright in Oklahoma. He had urged his wife to be “polite but persistent” in stating their case.

Wright pleaded on the staticky phone call: His wife was an American citizen.

“By the grace of God, the soldier let my wife and my interpreter through,” Wright said, adding they got on a plane after waiting in line 16 hours as thousands of Afghans pushed and shoved their way to the front.

On Aug. 21, Wright’s wife arrived in Germany under guard with other Afghan refugees on an Air Force base; on Sept. 7, she arrived in Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. From there she was transported to Fort Dix, New Jersey, where she underwent biometrics, COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, Wright said. She finished her SIV interview on Friday, and her final step is a medical evaluation physical this week, he said.

Her expected arrival date in Oklahoma isn’t yet known, but some other refugees have begun resettlement in Tulsa and Oklahoma City through federal relocation efforts.

Wright grew up on a ranch 4 miles north of Ketchum on Grand Lake. After spending almost 23 years away in the U.S. Army, Wright said he wanted to return to Oklahoma to retire.

“At first, my wife was really wanting to move to a big city such as Dallas, Los Angeles or somewhere in Virginia,” Wright said, noting cities with large Afghan communities. “This is very common for most Afghans ... afraid of how they may be treated in small towns.

“After months of persuading and convincing her that she would be treated with the upmost dignity and respect, and the fact that Grand Lake is a beautiful area, she gave in.”


How you can help refugees in need

Afghanistan refugees officially began arriving Sept. 24 in Tulsa. So far, about 20 are now in Tulsa and receiving support, Catholic Charities reported.

Support can be sent to cceok.org/refugees


Featured video:

With American troops gone and the Taliban now in charge, thousands of at-risk Afghans who worked with the United States are still stranded in their home country. Some have escaped, but many in the U.S. want to do more to help.

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