SOUTH OGDEN -- Retired Air Force Lt. Col. John Stewart worked for four years to get Nargis Qureashy out of Afghanistan. He felt he owed his young Afghan translator -- big time.
She risked her life to work for him, he said. Shared danger forms bonds, and he believes he had to repay her.
Stewart was stationed Kabul in 2008 to help the Afghan army and police prepare to defend the country. He and Qureashy worked in a major military base but also out in the city.
Wherever they were, it was dangerous.
"We'd go to the Afghan Ministry of Defense, ... and I'd be wearing body armor and helmet, full combat gear," as they drove through the city, Stewart said.
"And she'd be wearing that ..." and he pointed to Qureashy, sitting on the deck of his South Ogden home, wearing a simple black Afghan-style dress and shawl, smiling shyly.
Being on base was no guarantee of protection. Stewart was sitting in his office when a suicide bomb went off on the other side of a wall 50 yards away.
Windows were shattered. Lives were shattered -- people died.
Qureashy was brave on several levels, Stewart said.
She was a woman working outside the home in a culture where that is frowned on. She was helping Americans, viewed by many Afghans as occupiers.
Stewart rotated home after six months, but Qureashy had to stay.
Stewart knew her life and family were in danger, so in 2008, he started working to get out through a program that provides immigration visas to Afghans working for the U.S. military.
Stewart said the bureaucracy was slow to grant the needed visas, but on July 12, Qureashy finally landed in Utah. Under the visa program, she is getting a green card that makes her a legal immigrant. She can even apply for citizenship.
She is anxious to do that.
"That's my mission," she said in accented but confident English. "I left Afghanistan. I want to start new life. Let's see what I can do to help my family."
Qureashy is slight, with dark brown hair, brown eyes, a hesitant smile and quiet demeanor. Every time she talks, though, determination shines through.
The 24-year-old's short life spans three regimes in Afghanistan: before the Taliban, under the Taliban and now under the Karzai presidency supported by the American presence.
Qureashy has a brother and three sisters. Neither parent could read or write, she said, "and especially my mom was trying to give their children they should go to school."
That ended in 1996 when the Taliban took over.
"We were going to school. I was in first or second grade," she said. "They didn't let women go out. No TV, no music, nothing. They stopped everything, and the boys were going to school with the turban, and if there was no turban, they beat them."
Qureashy wanted to go to school. She wanted to work to help support her family.
So she went to secret schools for girls set up in the apartments where they lived. "My family also tried I should be like a boy. I didn't want to stay home. I dressed up like my brother."
She showed a picture of herself standing with her sisters and brother. Her hair is shorn, and she's wearing boy's clothing. Another picture shows her as a boy, standing beside her father in the small market he ran.
"I spend three, four years like that," Qureashy said.
Eventually, her older sister invited her to Pakistan, where she was studying. Qureashy studied English and computers, "and when I graduate, the Taliban go away, so I come back."
In 2006, she got a job at a call center in Kabul, but the hours were long and boring, and Qureashy didn't get paid well. A friend told her there was a chance for a better job at "the airport." She thought that meant the local airport, and so they went.
It was scary, she said, that on the same day that suicide and terror bombers killed 120 people in Kabul, she and a woman friend presented themselves at the gate of Camp Phoenix, an American military base near the Kabul airport, looking for jobs.
She was hired and assigned to Camp Eggers, the U.S. military headquarters in Kabul. Qureashy worked for a series of officers building up the Afghan police and military.
In 2008, Stewart took a turn, his third tour in the Afghan/Iraq wars.
"She was the interpreter for our office. I had about 10 people on our staff," he said.
His office prepared planning documents and ordered supplies for the Afghan forces. Qureashy's job was to translate documents and conversation from Afghanistan's two major languages, Dari and Pashtun, into English and back again.
Stewart met with local officials, village elders, Ministry of Defense officials and others. She went to translate, and Stewart remembers visits to the Ministry of Defense as particularly nasty.
"One encounter, the guards were threatening," he said. "They were calling her bad names, or prostitute, threatening to harass her family if she continued to work with the Americans.
"I complained to their Ministry of Defense, and of course, nothing happened."
For Qureashy, leaving Afghanistan was a difficult step. Her mother is her father's second wife and he is living with his primary wife, so her mother needs her children for support.
"When I left my mom, I was supporting her, and now she is alone," Qureashy said.
And by leaving, she knows her family members have to fend for themselves.
"I have to be strong for me and myself," Qureashy said.
She is staying with the Stewarts for a couple of weeks to get her paperwork finished and her green card in hand. Then she will move to Virginia to be near Washington, D.C., where she has friends and hopes to find work.
Eventually, she said, she wants to sponsor her family to live with her.
It's the American dream, and Stewart said he can't think of a better candidate.
"The one thing I'd like to emphasize is the incredible bravery she displayed working with our forces," he said. "She did it very well, and risked danger to herself and her family.
"She truly has the qualities, the bravery and the intellectual ability, to be a good citizen."