Marine veteran walks across Nebraska to raise money, awareness for Afghan refugees

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LAUREL, Neb. (KCAU) – A fundraiser meal was put together by the Laurel Vets Club to assist ‘Ruck for Refugees’.

When Nebraska native and former USMC Intelligence Officer Robert Koenig was stationed in Afghanistan, he relied on a civilian interpreter to assist on daily missions and for personal safety. Now, 17 years later, Koenig is getting the opportunity to say thank you in a most unexpected way.

“In Afghanistan, he helped me, he helped keep us alive, you know, everyday. I told him the day I left Afghanistan that you ever need help I’d help him. And if the shoe was on the other foot that he’d do the same for me. He was one of the best, brightest, smartest, most intelligent interpreters that I worked with,” said Marine Veteran Robert Koenig.

The extended family of Interpreter Mubarak recently managed to escape Afghanistan after the Taliban’s takeover, eventually landing at Ft. Bliss, Texas. Koenig’s new mission is to help reunite Mubarak’s relatives with his family now living in Florida.

“I was like, well, I just got to do something so I’m going to see if I can raise some money,” Koenig said.

But it wasn’t just donations Koenig was looking for, he found a unique way to also raise awareness.

“A thought in my head, why don’t I walk the same distance his family had to move from Eastern Afghanistan to Kabul to get to the airfield which was about 140 miles,” said Koenig.

Once the Laurel Veterans Legion heard Koenig’s walk would take him through town, they stepped up to help.

“You know, everybody does their part and, you know, somebody does the food and somebody does the advertising,” said American Legion Auxiliary Member Karen Thompson.

“I lost my dad and my brother in the last 15 years who both served in the service. And we thought what a great way to honor their memory by donating the food for this event,” said Laurel’s Hometown Market Co-Owner Brenda Whalen.

With some 25 miles left on his cross-country walk, Koenig says the support he has received has not gone unnoticed.

“The communities themselves are always supportive of their veterans, and I want to be able to sit down with some of them. Just talk about what we’re doing and what it was like to be in Afghanistan.”

Even after Koenig completes his journey, his mission won’t be over. He hopes to raise $250,000 to help Mubarak’s family build a new home and start a new life here in the United States.

“It’s more than a friendship, It’s a, you know, common struggle that you fought in together,” said Koenig.

Robert Koenig told me the goal is to move Mubarak’s family from Texas to Florida where Mubarak now lives. And, during the event in Laurel, over $1,000 was raised toward his goal. If you’d like to support Koenig, click here.

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