Former Afghan Refugee Becomes American Soldier
by U.S. Army Sgt. David Campos-Contreras
September 7, 2023
At first glance, the story of U.S. Army Spc. Rukhsar Yousufi sounds like the story of other Americans who volunteer to serve.
Yousufi enlisted at the age of 17, out of Shawnee, Kansas, as a financial management specialist. She currently serves, with Detachment 2, 368th Financial Management Support at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.
August 24, 2023 - U.S. Army Spc. Rukhsar Yousufi, a financial management specialist assigned to Detachment 2, 368th Financial Management Support at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. Spc. Yousufi, born in Kabul, Afghanistan ... is responsible for military payroll, computing allowances; and allotments; recording different details of Army business and financial transactions; and, sharing information on past expenses and expenditures. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. David Campos-Contreras.)
However, when one begins to turn the pages to the book of Yousufi’s life ... it is clear her experience is unique. Yousufi was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, where her mother worked for the U.S. Embassy as a translator. It was in Afghanistan, as a little girl, that Yousufi knew she wanted to join the Army.
“My mom used to earn $200.00 per month,” said Yousufi. “She had to sell all her gold because it was $600.00 per person to help complete the visa application paperwork. She did that for us, me, and my brothers.”
“I wanted to be in the Army way back in Afghanistan because my mom was working in the Embassy,” said Yousufi. “One night there were bombings in Kabul, and she was out until 2:30 a.m. because they shut down the Embassy and everyone was in bomb bunkers. The phones weren’t working, and I had no idea if my mother was alive. My older brother was trying to distract me with cartoons on the T.V. and then 15 minutes later ads played about joining the Army.”
In 2017, when Yousufi was 13, Yousufi’s mother, moved her family to America where they settled in Kansas. In August 2021, Afghanistan fell to the Taliban. According to a 2011 poll, conducted by Pew Research Center, women join the American military for the same reasons men do.
Shortly after watching the commercials on T.V., at the age of six, Yousufi tried to march in cadence, the urge to serve her country already apparent. Being a female to protect Afghanistan was an idea that Yousufi liked to think about.
“I have only experienced good things in the Army,” said Yousufi. “Even if I did experience a challenge I was able to overcome it. It’s nice being part of my unit because we all get along well. Everyone in my unit is nice to me. I love all of them a lot and I respect all of them. Each and every one of them has taught me a lot about the Army. Now I have bigger plans for the future.”
Some of Yousufi’s goals for the future include staying in the U.S. Army, and like her mother before her, re-classing to a job that allows her to be a translator. Eventually, Yousufi would like to be an officer.
“I actually want to become an officer in the Army and am currently enrolled in college courses,” said Yousufi. “Meanwhile, I took the Defense Language Proficiency Test and would like to re-class to a job that allows me to use my proficiency in Dari. Jobs like signals intelligence voice interceptor where you listen to recordings and interpret that specific foreign language.”
Having such a promising Soldier in today’s Army might not have been possible had Yousufi’s mother not taken her family out of Afghanistan. Yousufi also recounts how once when her mother was at work one night, some people forced their way into Yousufi’s home and threatened them at gunpoint to tell her mother that she needed to leave her job at the embassy.
“If the Taliban wasn’t in control, I would be happy to visit Afghanistan,” said Yousufi with tears swelling in her eyes. “Afghanistan has some really beautiful places to go to. There are some beautiful mountains and valleys. The wind, the weather. If it was safe to visit, I would.”
Yousufi paused for a bit and added that some people just stay in the past and that’s where they belong. They do not want to move forward. It is important to always look forward to the future with hope.
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