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Afghan families honored at Dallas Symphony Orchestra quintet concert Sunday afternoon

About a year ago, Ahmad Naseri says he, his wife and four children were still trying to get accustomed to life in the U.S.

His family fled Afghanistan in August 2021 as the U.S. military was making its exodus out of the country. Several months later he resettled in North Texas and was placed in a hotel in Richardson, where his family lived through February. Although it was difficult at first, as it has been for many Afghan evacuees, Naseri said his situation has improved day by day.

Naseri’s family was one of the invitees of a welcome concert and lunch on Sunday at the Dallas College Richland Campus that featured a brass quintet from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

Volunteer Jessie Webb of Dallas prepares to serve food as members of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra performed at a barbecue for Afghans resettling since the fall of Kabul. The event was held at Richland College in Richardson on Saturday.(Stewart F. House / Special Contributor)

“My kids are in school, I have a job, a car and an apartment,” he said as he watched his 7-year-old daughter, along with about a dozen other children, listening to the quintet’s performance. “Now I’m lucky with my family, where it is safe and where there is lots of opportunity.”

Justin Webb, 40, who started the young professionals program with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, organized the Sunday afternoon event. He said he wanted to welcome the families that he met during his deployment in Afghanistan in 2012 as part of the U.S. military. He served in the U.S. Marines and later the Navy.

When Webb first heard about the plan for the U.S. military to leave Afghanistan, he said he reached out to friends in the South Asian country and learned that they needed help.

Through his connections in the U.S. military, Webb helped coordinate the evacuation for three men, three women and 10 children.

“The next 12 to 13 days, I absolutely could not sleep,” Webb said. “When I saw photos that they were all safe and sound, I broke down sobbing.”

Webb didn’t stop there.

He helped the families get to North Texas and has remained in contact with them for more than a year. Sunday’s event, Webb said, was meant to show his gratitude to the Afghan families who risked their lives to help the U.S. military.

“This is just to show them that they’re welcome here and to thank them for what they did,” he said.

Ahmad Shah, 37, was one of the families that Webb helped escape from Afghanistan.

About 11,210 people who are of Afghan descent came to Texas as part of Operation Allies Welcome, a directive from President Joe Biden.

More than 1,500 Afghans were resettled in Dallas in the past year according to numbers from agencies in North Texas in charge of finding housing for them.

Many Afghan families have told The Dallas Morning News that they are still struggling to find solid footing in North Texas. Shah said he credits Webb not only for their evacuation, but also their ability to build new roots in Dallas.

Ahmad Shah, 37, listens as members of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra performed at a barbecue...
Ahmad Shah, 37, listens as members of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra performed at a barbecue for Afghans resettling since the fall of Kabul. The event was held at Richland College in Richardson on Saturday. (Stewart F. House / Special Contributor)

“He never gave up. Whenever we called him, he picked up his phone,” Shah said. “That’s why everything is good for us.”

Kim Noltemy, president and CEO of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, said the organization was happy to help with the Sunday concert.

“Music is one thing, but we want to learn more about what we can do,” Noltemy said.

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