Friends from Afghanistan, National Guard reunite in Keno

KENO, Ore. – One of the best parts of the Thanksgiving holiday is reuniting with family and close friends.

Four years ago, Tom Hoy was serving with the Oregon Army National Guard in Afghanistan.

Welder Rohullah Qasimi was helping to build gates and fences at Hoy’s base to help keep the troops safe.

“He was using this crazy old single-cylinder welder that looked like it was made back in the stone age,” Hoy recalled. “The cables were all frayed, but the craftsmanship that he was able to do with the bare bones minimum was just amazing – and him and I became close friends.”

Rohullah would sometimes bring his kids in, and Tom would buy them ice cream.

“I would try to teach him English,” Hoy said. “And he would teach me some Dari.”

Hoy says that life was very dangerous for his friend. “He would come inside our gates every day and work very hard for us, and then he would have to leave at the end of the day, and he would be exposed to attacks by the Taliban – and threats of reprisal against him and his family.”

Rohullah says he cried when Tom returned home to the U.S. “Because there are no anybody to see me, and there was no anybody to help us.”

The two met for the first time on U.S. soil this Thanksgiving at Hoy’s parent’s home near Keno.

Hoy helped Rohullah, his wife, and their four children secure a special immigration visa.

“Tom got me a commendation paper,” Rohullah said. “So he trusted to me on that time, because that was very hard in my country.  Nobody can trust each other.  But Tom trusted to me, I trusted to Tom.”

“He’s living happily in Sacramento, and his kids are going to school,” beamed Hoy. “And he doesn’t have to worry about getting shot at on the way to work.”

Rohullah shared gifts with his old friend Tom, and his kids got a taste of life at a southern Oregon horse ranch.

Both hope this won’t be the last holiday they spend together.

“We want to stay for always here,” Rohullah said, “We want to stay for, take my citizen here – we like it here.”

And both men say they have much to be thankful for.

Tom Hoy works as a deputy with the Klamath County Sheriff’s Office.

You may remember a story we did with Deputy Hoy and his canine partner “Cheif,” a Belgian Malinois.

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