From the streets of Kabul to the halls of Parris Island

31 Mar 2006 | Pfc. Dane M. Horst

Kabul, Afghanistan, 1983.

The country is at war with the Soviet Union, and notorious for repression of women.  A dangerous time to be an Afghan baby girl.  Despite such adversity, one of those girls took the path less traveled, not only to America, but to the yellow footprints of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.

For one Fightertown Marine, this is a brief synopsis of her life. Cpl. Narges Safdari, a Burke, Va., native, and a collateral duty inspector for Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 332, was raised exposed to two opposite worlds with very different cultures.

She was born in Kabul, under the rule of the Taliban, a strict militant group that outlawed everything from music to women’s rights.  But raised in America, where women are free to do almost anything they want. 

“My family was luckier than most to come to the States in such a quick manner,” Safdari said.  “Because my father worked for the Red Cross we were sponsored sooner than other families.”

At the age of three Safdari’s family moved to North Dakota to start a new life in America.

“Once we were over here both of my parents started taking English lessons, and my dad became an auto mechanic,” Safdari said.  “My mom always reminded my siblings and I how lucky we were when she told us of the hardships still going on in Afghanistan.”

Life in the United States was a drastic departure from the lives Safdari’s family had grown accustomed to living in Afghanistan, especially in terms of human rights.

“My mom also always taught us to take full advantage of the opportunities given to us,” Safdari said.  “One of the best things about America is the right to choose what to do with your life.”

Growing up in America, Safdari never experienced the crimes committed against women first-hand in Afghanistan.  Although she was frequently reminded, through her mother’s stories, and also letters from her cousins still living in Afghanistan.

Since coming to the U.S., Safdari has taken full advantage of the myriad of freedoms available to her in American society - including joining the Marine Corps.

Safdari joined the Marines searching for a job that was not only more challenging, but also more meaningful than a run-of-the-mill 9 to 5 job.

“I joined the Marine Corps because it was exciting and it gave me chance to do something with my life,” Safdari said.  “I also wanted to open up other Americans’ eyes and (let them) see not all Afghans are terrorists.”

Although her parents agreed with her enlistment, they had some worries.

“Whenever I talked about joining the Marine Corps with my parents, they were worried for my safety, but also very proud of me as well,” Safdari said.

Her parents also thought if she were to get deployed to Afghanistan it would be a good chance for her to see how lucky she is for being raised in America, according to Safdari. 

Upon graduation from recruit training, Safdari went to school to become an aircraft electrical technician.

“I chose to be an aircraft electrical technician because I’m working on multi-million dollar jets and finding out everything electronic about them.  That is a skill I can use out in the civilian sector when or if I choose to get out,” Safdari said.

Since joining the fleet, Safdari has served with two different fighter attack squadrons - Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 212, at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, and most recently with VMFA(AW)-332 here.

Safdari’s background has not been a hindering factor during her enlistment.

“Her descent is irrelevant, she is a Marine and she performs flawlessly in a combat environment,” said Chief Warrant Officer Tim Herron, the avionics officer for VMFA(AW)-332. “She has outstanding tact and is not afraid of taking on new responsibilities.”

Safdari returned to the U.S. from the Moonlighters’ deployment to Camp Al Asad, Iraq, just a few weeks ago.

Although she has not had an opportunity to deploy to Afghanistan, one of Safdari’s goals remains to visit her homeland, especially now that conditions are improving.

“I would love to go to Afghanistan to see my family, and not have to worry about being in danger from terrorist groups,” Safdari said.  “I can do that now because the U.S. is helping rebuild the country.”

Since her family’s arrival to the U.S. in 1986, they have witnessed the fall of the Taliban, and the rise of an Afghanistan that has improved the rights of all its’ citizens, especially women.

“My female cousins in Afghanistan have the opportunity now to go to school, and they are taking full advantage of it,”  Safdari said.

Although travelling to the country is difficult, she remains in contact with other family members in Afghanistan through her mother. She misses her family there, but is grateful for what America has afforded her.

“One of the best things in life is the right to choose what you want to do in your life, who you want to be with and how you want to raise your children,” Safdari said.  “That’s something living in the U.S. has provided me with.”