Veterans' business uses profits to support education for Afghan girls

Vets supporting education in Afghanistan

Issaquah, Washington — Army Rangers Matthew Griffin and Donald Lee served two tours together in Afghanistan where they saw brutal combat and crushing poverty.

"I had a son at that time, and I'm like, 'God, these kids will never have the opportunities that my kids can have,'" Lee said.

After they left the Army, Griffin had an idea. 
 
"I got that call in the middle of the night, saying 'Hey, we're gonna make flip flops in Afghanistan,'" Lee said. 

The mission was to make sturdy military-themed flip flops and footwear and use the profits to support education for Afghan girls. They call the company Combat Flip Flops.

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Donald Lee and Matthew Griffin served in Afghanistan before starting Combat Flip Flops. CBS News

"For every product that we sell, we donate to put a girl in school for a day in Afghanistan," Griffin said.

In 2016, they presented their business plan on ABC's "Shark Tank." Three panel members invested $100,000 each. But it's in Afghanistan that their success is most important, where Hassina Sherjan runs schools for over 3,000 girls.

"We have at least 85% illiteracy. We have the highest illiteracy rate in the world," Sherjan said.

To support her schools, Sherjan also runs a small business where her employees make scarves for Combat Flip Flops.

"They're all woven, dyed, sewn, stitched, and tasseled in Afghanistan in a woman-owned factory," Griffin said.

For these veterans, there's another more personal side to this mission.

"We lost six friends during our time in service and is it worth it? And now I can look at something and go, 'Yeah, it's worth it,'" Griffin said.

"I think we're definitely serving their memory," Lee said.

Perhaps flip flops can accomplish something boots on the ground have not.

  • John Blackstone
    John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.