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Broomfield Family Opens Home to Afghan Refugee Family On Thanksgiving

BROOMFIELD, Colo. (CBS4) - This Thanksgiving, Scott and Heidi Henkel opened their home in Broomfield to an old friend -- Ahmad Saddiqi and his wife Haria and their four children. Scott and his army buddies were very close with Ahmad 14 and 15 years ago in Afghanistan when he helped them as a translator.

"He's doing awesome. Yeah, doing great," Scott Henkel said. "When he talked about feeling happy because he's able to give his kids a future, that's the kind of person that he is. He's an incredibly selfless individual."

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Scott and his army buddies realized this year, they had to get them out. In an intense labor of pressure and nonstop effort, they were successful in helping to get the family out of Afghanistan before it fell.

In October, the family arrived, nervous about a new country, but thankful.

"We've been everything from the Taliban is knocking at my door to now he's at my table eating dinner with me," Scott said.

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"I would imagine back in Afghanistan to have them all there in my house and have a perfect dinner." Ahmad said at the Thanksgiving dinner table.

He'd rather have them there. He wants his children safely educated, and if it is ever safe again, maybe they can go back and rebuild their country. They all thought about those left behind under an oppressive regime.

"My people would never let these insurgents who are now leading a country would control 35 million people. That would never happen," said Ahmad, whom his American buddies call, "Kevin."

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They still worry about those left behind. "People that I know that did not make it through those airport gates and did not make it back over to the states. So it's bittersweet," said veteran Rob Benton, who came for the dinner as well.

"I always think of them? Yes I do," Ahmad said.

"My father and my mother are in Afghanistan," explained Ahmad's wife Haria. They and other family are on her mind.

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Scott and Heidi and the other army veterans, Rob Benton and wife Lori and Jeff Long and wife Raylene, were all there at Thanksgiving to support the family. America is helping, but to a limited extent. Many refugees arrive broke and with great need.

"People have said, 'Well, that was one thing. I thought everything was taken care of.'" Heidi said. "And that's not always the case."

Some are arriving with nothing, Heidi noted. When they find a place to go, willing to take them and help them set up new lives, they have to cover their own airfare.

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"So they're actually coming here with a bag and a cell phone and then also we're issuing them debt," Heidi said. She has been helping Ahmad get paperwork completed to get a job. They aren't worried about his abilities. "The thought that there wasn't a plan is an absolute myth. There totally was a plan. He was part of it." Ahmad is noted for his sense of humor and his intelligence. "It was guys like him that were going to step into leadership in Afghanistan and lead the county and give his kids the legacy that he wanted," said Scott. "That was taken away from him and he spent twenty years of his life invested in growing that country and working towards giving his kids that legacy. And that was taken away."

Scott wanted Americans to think about how women have been immediately oppressed since the Taliban takeover. "Literally the next day they had armed men, come to their door, thrown a full burka on them and said don't ever leave this house without a male in your presence. And oh by the way a school? No more school for you. No more education. Can you imagine what those women are thinking right now?"

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It was something to think about on this Thanksgiving in America. The family's first. "Give them the utmost grace. And the utmost respect and love because they're coming from a place having their hopes and dreams just ripped out of their past, or out of their future," Scott Henkel said. "I want us to be the most welcoming country and obviously I want Colorado to be the most welcoming state for Afghans."

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