‘He was one of our brothers:’ Orlando Army Reserve veteran works with unit to bring Afghan interpreter to US

Army Reserve 689th Engineering Company bringing interpreter to US

ORLANDO, Fla. – After saving their lives more than a decade ago, soldiers part of the Army Reserves 689th Engineering Company deployed out of Orlando are returning the favor and bringing their interpreter code-named “Singar” to the United States, including veteran combat engineer Justin Diaz.

“Singar was part of the deployment,” Diaz said. “He went on missions with us. We were there 24/7, 365 days and you build a level of comradery amongst your brothers, and he was one of our brothers,” Diaz said.

Diaz over the last few days has witnessed what his fellow soldiers have done to get Singar, his pregnant wife and young daughter out of Afghanistan. Singar making it out a few days ago, before the bombing outside the Kabul airport.

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“I’ve been watching and witnessing soldiers in our unit working covertly over the last couple of weeks with people on the ground, congressmen and with people in government. Sharing GPS locations of Singar with his family minute by minute to get him to the point where individuals in our military were able to identify him and put him ahead of the line to get to safety,” Diaz said. “It was unreal to watch, it was a mission in of itself.”

But it was a mission these soldiers were determined to prevail, as it was one of their own, veteran combat engineer Jesse Madsen worked toward for years.

“He was a big part in helping Singar get here the past couple of years,” Diaz said.

However, Madsen is the Tampa police officer who sacrificed his life by intentionally veering into a wrong-way driver back in April to save others.

“That’s a big reason why all of us are so persistent in making this happen because we want to make Jesse proud,” Diaz said turning around to compose his tears.

Now, Diaz is determined to continue the goal of bringing Singar to the U.S. with enough resources for a fresh start at life, creating this GoFundMe page.

“Singar stepped up to the plate and risked his life to save our lives and the locals, guns were drawn and pointed and he stepped between U.S. forces and other forces to diffuse the situation,” Diaz added. “Singar stepped up to serve his country and our country as well, and that’s part of the terms. If you help us, we help you, so I think it’s important to honor that.”

Diaz said Singar and his family are safe at an undisclosed military base, with no word on where the family will resettle.

About the Author:

Nadeen Yanes joined News 6 as a general assignment reporter in 2016. She grew up in Leesburg and graduated from the University of Florida. Nadeen has won three Associated Press Awards for her reporting on the Pulse Nightclub shooting, the trial of the Pulse gunman's wife and the capture of an accused cop killer, Markeith Loyd.