Meet IVMF’s #StudentOfTheWeek
, Matt Zeller, an Army veteran.
“I should have died on April 28, 2008. I wouldn't be talking today, nor would my daughter be alive, had it not been for my Afghan translator, Janis Shinwari, who killed two Taliban fighters who were about to shoot me,” Matt Zeller said.
Shinwari served America in Afghanistan for eight years and saved countless American lives. However, it took Zeller more than three years to bring him to the U.S. while the Taliban hunted him down. The U.S. promised interpreters that after a year's worth of service, if they found themselves in danger, they would be granted visas within the year, a promise that has been broken.
In 2013, Zeller attended the IVMF’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) at S.U. when Shinwari called to tell him he had weeks to get him a visa before the Taliban caught up to him.
In November 2013, Zeller and Shinwari founded No One Left Behind, a non-profit that advocates for interpreters and fights to bring them and their families to the U.S.
“Thankfully, I was right where I needed to be to learn how to start and run a business. No One Left Behind was conceived in the hallways of Syracuse,” Zeller said.
The organization provides interpreters and their families three months of housing payments, furniture and a used car. Help is given to find them a job as they integrate into American society.
“They wore our uniforms, ate our food, bled our blood, saved our lives and killed our enemies,” Zeller said. He hopes that someday his non-profit will close, as then all interpreters in need of help would have been brought to safety.
Zeller was a Military Intelligence Captain in the U.S. Army Reserves. He served in the Army for over 13 years and holds a Purple Heart. Originally from Rochester, New York, he ran for Congress in 2010 as the Democratic nominee for New York's 29th congressional district. He currently lives in Northern Virginia.