Sullivans host five Afghan men in their home, seek help for others possibly coming to Sanpete
STERLING – For Sterling resident and former U.S. military member Carl Sullivan, helping the people of Afghanistan has become his mission in life.
In December, the Sanpete Messenger reported about Sullivan’s effort to provide assistance to his Afghan friends not only here in Utah, but also in Afghanistan.
Sullivan is a retired U.S. Navy interpreter who served in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2013 before his retirement in 2013. During his time there, he formed friendships with the citizens of Afghanistan, specifically the Hazara people.
And while the communities of central Utah have reached out with open arms efforts, Sullivan is seeking additional cash, clothing, hygiene products and other donations from local residents.
He needs donations of any kind for refugees who are already in Utah, and monetary donations for those he is helping in Afghanistan and hoping to bring to Sanpete County.
In particular, Sullivan is seeking housing assistance for Afghan refugees already in Central Utah.
Following the earlier Messenger article, “We had a lot of people contact us about donations,” Sullivan said.
Adding to Sullivan’s burden, the refugees come to Utah speaking very little or no English at all.
“Now we are tasked with teaching them English,” he said.
There are plans to set up an English program at Snow College for the Hazara people, members of a Muslim sect who are often ostracized in Afghanistan. Some of them are already in the local area, and more will be coming, according to Sullivan, who taught Japanese at Snow College for a time, beginning in 1991.
In January, Sullivan and his wife, Masae, remodeled their house in order to house two refugee families at a time. The idea is to have the families stay with Sullivan on a temporary basis until they are able to provide for themselves, which includes obtaining a green card and employment. And once those families are settled, two more families will be brought in to live with the Sullivans.
But currently, the Sullivans have five refugee men living with them. The men’s families are stuck in Afghanistan. The men served alongside the U.S. military and were able to get out of the country before the Taliban takeover.
Sullivan has done everything in his power to help the families get out of the country. He has even reached out to the U.S. State Department. However, his pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
And while the five men are able to talk to their families on a daily basis, Sullivan says the process for getting the families out of Afghanistan is discouraging.
Since the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan last August, rescue flights have nearly stopped. Sullivan says there is a rescue flight every so often, roughly once a week.
But with tens of thousands of people still waiting to get out of the country and only 300 to 400 people getting out in a week, there is no telling how long it might be before the five men staying with Sullivan are reunited with their families.
In order to get on a flight, an individual has to be on a list. Furthermore, passports are now required for anyone on a flight, including infants. Yet the Taliban will not grant passports to the people who want to leave.
Sullivan says the U.S won’t even agree to host rescue flights out of the third-party country.
“We’re hoping to keep them alive long enough so that their number will be called,” Sullivan said of the families he is supporting financially.
In all, Sullivan has been rendering aid to nine families stuck in Afghanistan, including two families for the past four years, and he plans to continue doing so until the families can get out of the country.
The economy in Afghanistan is in poor shape with little food to go around. So, Sullivan is sending $3,000 a month so the families can buy food.
Sullivan and his wife run a Japanese translation service out of their Sterling home, and it has turned out to be a successful business. But it’s not enough to support his friends in Afghanistan.
This is specifically where Sullivan could use assistance.
“Three thousand dollars a month to feed families is daunting,” he said. “I’m looking for some help.”
The families Sullivan is helping are part of the Hazara community. Over the years, the Hazara people have been persecuted because they practice a different form of Islam than what is advocated by the government. Due to being Shia Muslims, and of a different ethnic group, the Hazara people are easy targets for abuse.
The persecution the Hazara people are experiencing has gone from bad to worse with the rise of the Taliban, following the U.S. military’s departure from the country in August 2021.
The Taliban considers the Hazara people to be infidels.
“The Taliban is killing people left and right,” Sullivan said. “You don’t hear about it on the news, but they are going from house to house.”
Sullivan says the previous government—which was overtaken by the rise of the Taliban—turned its back on the Hazara people.
“The other government didn’t do enough to stand up for them,” he said.
Between helping those still trapped in Afghanistan and those refugees who have made it to Utah, Sullivan is a little overwhelmed.
“I’m kind of worn out,” he said. “I’m trying to find some help to bear the load.”
But Sullivan isn’t the only military veteran involved in this cause. He says there have been several charitable groups organized around the country with the focus of helping Afghan citizens who have been left behind.
One of the groups that Sullivan is involved with is called Operation Popcorn, which consists of nearly 1,200 military veterans, who are rendering aid to families trapped in Afghanistan.
And while the intentions of the groups are good, Sullivan says that it can take a toll on the veterans who are providing aid. He says five military veterans have died by suicide because they lost their families in Afghanistan.
As a young man, Sullivan learned the Japanese language as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In addition to Japanese, he speaks Korean. He received a bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies from the University of Arizona. He furthered his education by earning a master’s degree in Japanese from Brigham Young University.
Sullivan and his wife have a combined 10 children from previous marriages. Two of them are currently serving in the military.
Sullivan is in the process of setting up a website and a GoFundMe account to help with fund relief efforts. For now, if you would like to help Sullivan with a donation of any kind, you can reach out to him at (801) 369-1501 or by email at email@example.com.