New York State Senior Court Officer Thomas Jurgens would have been 44 years old this year. He lost the opportunity to age on the morning of Sept. 11th, 2001.
Rather than protect himself, he rushed into the chaos of the World Trade Center, in the aftermath of the plane crashes and resultant deadly explosions: while others ran from it.
His last radio response was, "I cannot leave, there are people who need our help."
His badge and his gun were recovered from the rubble. His body was never found.
Tommy was my nephew.
I am the only member of the Bush White House that lost a relative on that terrible day.
I've written about Tommy before.
I'll keep writing about Tommy Jurgens so that we never forget those brave men and women who didn't come home that evening.
Tommy's last words have remained with me all these years.
I wonder what he would think of everything that has happened since.
The nation has been through a lot, but we remain strong.
I have no doubt that Tommy would remind me there is still work to be done, that there are still people that still need our help.
He was right then, he's right now.
Afghan combat translators who served alongside our Armed Forces need our help.
From the beginning of the conflict, our troops have relied on such translators to be their eyes, ears, and cultural bridges between them and a people who steeped in 5,000 years of history.
The Taliban and ISIS would purposely target translators when they ambushed patrols to destroy these figurative bridges. Today, our enemies still hunt and behead family members of translators to deter others from supporting coalition forces. Rep. Mike Waltz, R-Fla., the first Green Beret elected to Congress — had his translator murdered because he stood with us.
Despite the risk, thousands of brave Afghans younger than Tommy signed up to try and bring peace to their country. Many earned the trust of our soldiers and carried weapons.
Arms they deployed to defend our men and women in battle.
The stories are humbling. When asked why they would risk their lives for strangers, the Afghan response is always a variation of the same: Honor.
As a small thank you, the United States created the Special Immigrant Visa program for translators with two full years of honorable service. Applicants undergo the most rigorous screening process of all refugees attempting to enter the United States.
The process lasts between three and five years. It involvex multiple agencies.
All the while, these allies continue to receive death threats. Today there are thousands still waiting for us to keep our promise.
In my opinion, Afghan combat translators have demonstrated and earned their merit.
They deserve to be the first to get an opportunity to resettle here.
Former Gov. Thomas H. Kean and former Rep. Lee H. Hamilton recently offered this:
"As former chairman and vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, we encourage the Congress to do everything in its power to keep the nation's promise to Afghan and Iraqi combat translators and to ensure these intrepid partners can achieve the American Dream. Special Immigrant Visas recipients from Afghanistan and Iraq loyally protected our men and women in uniform. Many directly saved American lives. Their future success will help to prevent the continued growth of Islamist terrorism - the third goal identified by the 9/11 Commission. A great nation keeps its promises."
The fight against terrorism is far from over.
It has taken too many of our finest (Tommy included) well before their time.
We as a country have an opportunity to keep our word to our allies. It's not too late for us to make good on that promise. I call on Congress and the White House to recognize Afghan translators as the heroes they are.
They deserve not to be left behind because they need our help.
Bradley Blakeman was a member of President George W. Bush's senior White House staff from 2001 to 2004. He is also a frequent contributor to Fox News and Fox Business Channel. He currently is a Principal with the 1600group.com a consulting company. — Click Here Now.
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