Hamilton alumnus and Afghan combat veteran Matt Zeller ’04 and Janis Shinwari, a former Afghan interpreter, will present a lecture, “No One Left Behind: A Bond Forged in Combat,” on Monday, April 10, at 6:30 p.m., in the Bradford Auditorium, KJ. The lecture is free and open to the public and sponsored by the Levitt Public Affairs Center and the Arthur Coleman Tuggle Lecture Fund.
Zeller and Shinwari are co-founders of No One Left Behind, an organization that helps endangered interpreters and their families immigrate to the United States and establish the service and support they need when they arrive. Shinwari saved countless American lives, including Zeller’s in Afghanistan.
Zeller, who majored in government at Hamilton, is a Truman National Security Fellow and an adjunct fellow at the American Security Project. He is also the author of Watches Without Time (Just World Books, 2012), which chronicles his experience serving as an embedded combat adviser with the Afghan security forces in Ghazni, Afghanistan, in 2008. Zeller earned a master’s in public administration and a master’s in international relations from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University.
In 2008, Zeller, a U.S. Army Captain serving in Afghanistan, found himself in an ambush pinned down by an enemy fire. At that critical moment, Afghan interpreter Shinwari and an American quick reaction force arrived to rescue Zeller and his team. Shinwari joined the fight just in time to shoot two Taliban fighters who had flanked Zeller’s position and were closing in for the kill.
Zeller was one of five U.S. soldiers Shinwari directly saved during his nine years of combat interpretation support to Operation Enduring Freedom. As a result the Taliban placed Shinwari at the top of their kill list in early 2009. Distressed knowing that the Taliban were hunting Shinwari and his family, Zeller appealed to the media, Congress and the Department of State to take action. Five years later, Shinwari’s case finally worked its way through U.S. Government bureaucracy, and in 2013 he and his family safely arrived in Washington, DC.
In November 2013, Zeller and Shinwari started No One Left Behind with one mission: to ensure America treats our interpreters as the heroes and veterans they are. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the organization funds resettlement activities through entirely volunteer staffs in the greater D.C. area and at four subordinate chapters located in San Francisco, Upstate NY, Boston and Chicago.