How Afghan families with American ties held signs scrawled with the name 'Chesty Puller' - the most decorated Marine in US history - as a covert way to ensure safe passage into Kabul airport

 A family of eight Afghans were able to escape Kabul in the nick of time by invoking the name of the most decorated Marine in history - Chesty Puller.

Puller was legendary for his leadership in World War II and the Korean war, and while not necessarily known by everyone, is a famous figure in the U.S. Marine Corp.

So when the family were seen holding cardboard signs bearing Chesty Puller's name outside of Kabul airport as the U.S. was scrambling to evacuate as many people as possible, they quickly got the attention of the marines stationed there.

The signs also served the purpose of not drawing the attention of the Taliban, who took control of Kabul earlier in August and who many feared would seek revenge on those who worked with the west.

According to their guide, the family were able make it inside Kabul airport on August 26 - moments after the suicide bomb was detonated that killed 170 people. 

Pictured: A family of hopeful Afghan evacuees hold up signs with the words 'Chesty Puller' to get noticed by Marines outside Hamid Karzai International Airport last month

Pictured: A family of hopeful Afghan evacuees hold up signs with the words 'Chesty Puller' to get noticed by Marines outside Hamid Karzai International Airport last month

Pictured: Chesty Puller, a legendary Marine known for his leadership in World War II and Korea. While not necessarily known by everyone, is a famous name in the U.S. Marine Corp

Pictured: Chesty Puller, a legendary Marine known for his leadership in World War II and Korea. While not necessarily known by everyone, is a famous name in the U.S. Marine Corp

'Word had gotten passed down from the battalion leadership, down to the point man on the ground, to look out for a guy who's going to be holding the signs that say 'Chesty Puller,'' Gus Biggio, who had served with the marines in southern Afghanistan's Helmand Province, told NPR.

The father of the 'Chesty Puller' family, who has not been named for their safety, had risked his life to help Biggio and his marines in the Nawa district of Helmand back in 2009, making him a wanted man when the Taliban took over.

But despite the help he gave to the marines, his application for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) to move to the U.S. - like for many other Afghans - was moving slowly.


From Washington DC, Biggio said he connected the father and his family with a grassroots network trying to locate American citizens and vulnerable Afghans, and help them get through the gates of Hamid Karzai International Airport.

There, thousands of people were trying to get through the gates and onto planes leaving the country to escape Afghanistan after it fell to the Taliban last month.

Among the grassroots network was Army veteran Ben Owen, who runs BlackRifle - a data intelligence company based in Georgia.  

Pictured: Armed Forces personnel deployed in Kabul to work on the evacuation of people from Afghanistan help people towrads the airport, August 21, 2021

Pictured: Armed Forces personnel deployed in Kabul to work on the evacuation of people from Afghanistan help people towrads the airport, August 21, 2021


Owen was able to make contact with the family, telling NPR that his role quickly changed from working with data, to managing the family, saying this involved communicating with them on the ground to try and get them to the gate.

The family was instructed to make signs that read 'Chesty Puller', along with other other well known Marine motifs such as 'Teufel Hunden,' meaning 'Devil Dog,' the name German troops used for Marines in World War I and '10 Nov., 1775' - the date the U.S. Marine Corps was founded.

It was hoped that by holding up these signs, the family would be spotted in the crowd gathering at the gates outside the airport.

'People holding up these signs, about 20 inches square with black writing – amongst the densely packed crowd of similarly dressed people. You can't help but notice these six white placards,' Biggio said to NPR.

Afghan citizens pack inside a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III, as they are transported from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan, Sunday, August 15, 2021

Afghan citizens pack inside a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III, as they are transported from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan, Sunday, August 15, 2021

On their first attempt, however, Owen was unable to get the family to Abbey Gate - the entrance to the airport through which people hoped to be evacuated. 

Despite them getting within meters of the gate with the right documentation, Owen said that they were forced to run back into the crowd. He said they shouldn't give up.

Biggio and Owen told the 'Chesty Puller' family to try to get out again on August 26, with Owen once again guideing them to Abbey Gate with their homemade signs.

Biggio said that he was later told the Marines waded out into the crowd and grabbed the father and the family, and pulled them towards the airport.

Once he thought they were safely through, Owen turned to helping other families, as he was working with a number of others to try and get them out.

He was speaking on the phone to another family he called 'stars and stripes' - because he instructed them to wear American flags - when a suicide bomb was detonated, killing 170 people including 13 U.S. military personnel. 

The 'Stars and Stripes' family survived and fled the scene, and amidst the shock, Owen said a realisation dawned on him - the 'Chesty Puller' family were still there at the time of the devastating blast.

He had to wait an hour before getting word that the family of eight had made it through the gate to the airport in the nick of time, narrowly avoiding the explosion.

When asked by Owen in a worried phone call whether the 'Chesty' father had made it through, he said: 'Of course I'm good – I'm with Marines.'

'So when we found out they actually made it in, I cried. I think a lot of us did,' Owen said.

How Afghan families with American ties held signs scrawled with the name 'Chesty Puller' - the most decorated Marine in US history - as a covert way to ensure safe passage into Kabul airport How Afghan families with American ties held signs scrawled with the name 'Chesty Puller' - the most decorated Marine in US history - as a covert way to ensure safe passage into Kabul airport Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 08:43 Rating: 5

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