Houston veteran planning hunger strike for his Afghan family as groups work to evacuate more allies

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As the chaos continues to unfold in Afghanistan, thousands of people, including Houstonians, are watching the developments carefully.

"We have knocked on every door, we have begged everyone," said a Houston-based U.S. service member from his hotel room in Washington D.C.

Wearing sunglasses and a mask, the service member wished to only be identified by his nickname, "Vegas." He grew up in Afghanistan and said he's desperate to get his family out. Despite being a member of the U.S. military and a citizen, he has not been successful.

"We are American citizens. We have honorably served this country," he said, choking back tears. In a last-ditch effort, Vegas and several other service members are planning a hunger strike in front of the White House starting Wednesday.

"We are out here because we have nowhere else to go. So we do plan on going on a hunger strike in front of the White House first thing [Wednesday morning]," he said.

The story of Vegas is unusual, but not surprising for Cress Clippard of Combined Arms, a Houston-based veterans organization that is actively working to bring Afghan allies to the U.S.

"We have been watching this situation extremely closely," said Clippard, who was deployed to Afghanistan with the Marines in 2014. "So many people in our community are watching and waiting to hear from their family members and they 're so frustrated, some of the smartest, most centered people I know."

Clippard says he knows at least one Houston-based U.S. veteran who is currently stuck in Kabul. The man has a permanent resident card and traveled to Afghanistan one last time to visit family. But the country fell to the Taliban so quickly that he was not able to get out in time.

"We're really worried that most of our wartime allies, who deserve to come out, won't get out, and we're worried they're going to get hunted down," said Clippard.

Combined Arms and several other local organizations are actively working to help Afghans who are trying to get out of Kabul as well as those who just arrived. The organization expects its work to continue.

If you would like to help, visit Combined Arms' website.
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