TAMPA (WFLA) – A Tampa non-profit co-founded by a combat veteran is on a mission to make sure no Americans, Lawful Permanent Residents and U.S. allies are left behind in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
Project DYNAMO is performing rescue operations without State Department help months after the U.S. ended its two-decades-long war.
“That flag is from ground zero,” Project DYNAMO co-founder Bryan Stern said, referring to the stars and stripes on display in his Tampa living room.
After enlisting in the Army, Stern responded to the World Trade Center on 9/11 and survived both collapses.
“Since then I’ve been involved in this thing called the global war on terrorism,” Stern said.
The Army and Navy combat veteran has deployed around the world. He fought in America’s longest war in Afghanistan.
“I am a patriot and I’ve been in service my entire adult life,” he said.
Since the controversial completion of the U.S. withdrawal before the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks, Stern said every person his organization has helped has been trying to get out since August and some since July.
“Never in 100 years did I think we’d be talking about rescuing Americans five months later,” Stern said, “that would be my criticism.”
Stern said the donor-funded non-profit is the last hope for Americans and Green Card holders still stuck in Afghanistan.
“None of this is easy,” he said, “that’s why no one else is doing it. Project DYNAMO remains the only group to go from Kabul to the U.S.”
Stern can’t tell you an exact count, but the estimate is more than 2,000 Americans and lawful permanent residents are back in the U.S. because of Project DYNAMO.
In December, a large-scale evacuation brought 47 American citizens and lawful permanent residents back to the U.S. The most recent mission in January rescued 23 people, including 11 children.
“We flew them from Kabul through Dubai landing at JFK in one swoop,” Stern said.
No matter how many times he goes back and forth from Afghanistan, Stern still can’t describe the feeling of the plane touching down on U.S. soil.
“I get asked this question a lot and the answer is I really can’t describe it,” he said. “It’s the best work that I’ve ever done.” I’ve worked all over the world with the most elite units in the entire U.S. arsenal.”
So long as there are Americans trapped in Afghanistan and his organization has the money, Stern said he will find a way to rescue them.
“I will figure it out,” Stern said. “Afghanistan is a landlocked country, if it wasn’t I’d be using rowboats and Carnival Cruise Lines.”