By Thomas Peipert, The Associated Press
THORNTON — Navy veteran Jordon Daniel was busy when the United States pulled its last troops out of Afghanistan at the end of August.
More than 7,000 miles and a world away, he and a group of fellow veterans were moving furniture, folding towels and sorting silverware in drawers during a hot, dry summer day in the Denver area.
Their mission: To furnish homes for Afghan refugees seeking safety in the United States.
Daniel had just finished furnishing the last of three or four homes for refugees that day when he received an alert on his cellphone that the final U.S. military aircraft had departed Kabul after two decades of war.
“I got in my truck and just sat there and was just kind of reflecting,” said Daniel, who signed up for the Navy after 9/11 and spent time in Afghanistan on a security detail. “You know, 20 years of war, America’s longest war coming to an end. And you know, for me it was kind of coming full circle.”
On Wednesday, Daniel and volunteers with the veteran-focused disaster relief organization Team Rubicon were continuing their mission, dubbed Operation Eagle Landing, by furnishing two suburban Denver apartments that will soon house Afghan families that left their home country behind to escape Taliban rule.
The team assembled furniture, washed dishes, lugged heavy couches and dressers up stairs and carefully placed donated backpacks and stuffed animals on children’s beds. A family of eight will live in one apartment, and a family of five will live in the other.
Since August, Team Rubicon has helped settle more than 110 Afghan families in Colorado, said Daniel, the Denver city administrator for the group.
Tens of thousands of Afghans have been flown to the U.S. since the war wound down, and most are still living in temporary housing at military bases across the country. Between 1,000 and 2,000 Afghan refugees are expected to arrive in Colorado by the end of the year.
That means Daniel and his team could have their work cut out for them — a task they seem to relish.
“For us veterans, service is kind of in our blood. … The veteran component, it adds that special piece of camaraderie to it, that sense of service, that sense of purpose,” Daniel said. He said it’s also a rewarding experience to help those who aided coalition forces in Afghanistan during the war.
“It’s just a chance for us to kind of express our gratitude as well. And just thanking them and welcoming them to the neighborhood.”
Team Rubicon was formed in the days following a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that caused widespread destruction in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in January 2010, according to the group’s website. Haiti’s government put the death toll at more than 300,000, although an exact accounting was impossible given the widespread devastation.
Two U.S. Marines, Jake Wood and William McNulty, gathered supplies and volunteers before traveling to Haiti in the following days, and Team Rubicon was born. It has since grown into an international nonprofit organization that boasts more than 130,000 volunteers.