Eye On KELOLAND: The language of love & war


SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — Just months after the U.S. exit from Afghanistan, a Sioux Falls couple is reflecting upon the war, that in some ways, brought them together, only to separate them, temporarily. The owner of the Khorasan Kabob House restaurant served as an interpreter for the U.S. army in Afghanistan starting in 2009, shortly after becoming a newlywed.

The Wisaal family is living the American Dream in Sioux Falls.

“It’s a country of opportunity. You just have to work hard,” Arian Wisaal said.

Arian Wisaal left Afghanistan in 1997, not long after the Taliban took control of the Afghan capital of Kabul. He came to Sioux Falls in 2003 and now runs his own restaurant. But in 2009, he became an interpreter for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, out of a sense of duty and loyalty to his new homeland.

“I just wanted to serve because we have a lot of appreciation to the USA of America, because we come from nowhere and no one,” Wisaal said.

But serving as an interpreter is dangerous duty in a war-torn country. So, the U.S. military assigned bodyguards to protect Wisaal.

“It’s been dangerous. But also, it’s kind of like nice to be around people who care about you,” Wisaal said.

But shortly before he began his military duties, Wisaal left for Afghanistan on another mission: seeking wedded bliss. And in countries like Afghanistan, that means an arranged marriage.

“It’s kind of like they make a contract between two families and after that, a man and woman meet before marriage, like one or two times talking,” Wissal said.

That arranged courtship took just a few months before the Wisaals were married.

“I never experienced before marriage, so it was obviously strange, and you feel nervous, you feel scared but at the same time, you know you’re starting a new journey in life,” Tamana Wisaal said.

That journey for Tamana Wisaal involved a fast-track move to South Dakota. Arian Wissal was able to bring his new wife to Sioux Falls almost immediately because of his commitment to serve as a military interpreter.

“It speeded the process and I have appreciation to many people in Sioux Falls,” Arian Wissal said.

But just as Tamana Wissal was getting settled into her new surroundings in Sioux Falls, husband Arian left again for Afghanistan to begin his duties as a military interpreter.

“It’s obviously sad, it’s like you don’t like it, but you know he’s going to do something good, something better for the country, so you feel proud,” Tamana Wisaal said.

Tamana Wisaal says she quickly made friends in Sioux Falls who taught her how to speak, read and write English. She was reunited with her husband in 2011 when he came home from his interpreter duties.

The Wisaals are still waiting for more relatives still in Afghanistan to come to the United States. But they acknowledge that such a family reunion will be difficult with the Taliban now in power.

“It is really tough right now because especially there is no embassy in Afghanistan. So they have to wait for the border from Pakistan or Iran to open and they can let them go to their country,” Tamana Wisaal said.

Even though the U.S. no longer has a presence in Afghanistan anymore, Arian Wisaal is proud of his service as a military interpreter. Now he’s focused on his business and his family, which speaks to the international language of love.

“I’m happy right now because I’m here right now, I’m safe here and my kids have the opportunity to go to the best school and I live in the best place right now, and this is something I appreciate,” Tamana Wisaal said.

Arian Wisaal says he believes the United States did not lose the war in Afghanistan. He blames corruption within the Afghan government for the Taliban’s rapid rise to power.

He says he’s also glad the U.S. made arrangements to evacuate his fellow interpreters out of Afghanistan, and out of harm’s way.

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