For James Akam, Father’s Day was Monday.
Some things are worth the wait. For this reunion, the former Afghan interpreter to Canadian troops had to wait 20 months.
“I was worried I would never see my son or my wife again,” said Akam.
There was a lot of pain before that dream came true late Monday when his wife and son touched down at the Calgary International Airport from Kabul, Afghanistan.
His son’s name is Bahroz and he’s five years old. His wife, still concerned about retribution against her family back home, has asked that her name be kept out of the story for now.
“I just hugged them. I am so happy and am so thankful to Canada,” said James. “They are going to love Calgary. It’s such a great place with such amazing people.”
Yes, James Akam’s Canadian dream is complete. Who says there are not some positive stories to come out of Afghanistan?
However, it was not easy to get to this happy place.
Akam served with the Royal Canadian Regiment and other Canadian Armed Forces units from 2008-11 as an interpreter.
Once Canada left Afghanistan, things became very dangerous for those who helped NATO countries.
“The Taliban was everywhere and ISIS was also making its presence felt,” he said. “There was a price put on my life.”
After his parents were murdered, he knew it was time to take action.
“I hid my wife and my son and I decided to try to get abroad to find a place where I could bring them,” he told me.
He was on several boats, in several war zones and eventually walked to a refugee camp in Germany.
“It was scary and there was a period of time where I did not know if the Taliban had found my wife and son,” he said.
After arriving in Germany, he got in touch with his old pal from his service days in Kandahar, retired corporal Eric Kirkwood.
“He was always very good to me,” said James. “It was an honour to serve with Eric and all the Canadians.”
Eric called me last fall and together we began working on getting James out of the refugee camp in Germany and to Canada. There were many roadblocks, including people telling me it would never happen.
A wild card, though, was Immigration Minister John McCallum. He liked the story and felt with 25,000 Syrians coming to Canada, why not bring in a man who risked his life for our country?
In April, Akam made it to Toronto. On Monday, two months later, Immigration Canada was good to its word and his wife and son arrived.
“It’s more than a dream come true,” James told me. “They have been my reason for living.”
He once again thanked McCallum and, of course, Kirkwood — his old partner in combat.
Who knows what he and his wife, and certainly his young son, will accomplish.
“I am so grateful.” said James.
In the meantime, both James and I — as well as others in the media like Charles Adler or Jim Richards or John Oakley (all of whom I want to thank for covering this) — don’t want the government to forget there are others just like Akam in Afghanistan or another country. And their lives are in danger.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, please assign someone the job of getting those people here — just like we did for James.
It’s the right thing to do. We don’t leave our heroes behind. This family arriving in Calgary is living proof.
James Akam said every day spent in Canada is not only special, but from now on every day is also Father’s Day.