(Left to right) Meg Kelvington, Hamayon Yaqobi, and Lt. Col. Mike Kelvington
Cleveland, OH - While Hamayon Yaqobi, Senior Operations Manager at ASIA’s International Community Health Center, sat in quiet excitement for the naturalization ceremony to begin at the Carl B. Stokes Building, he was accompanied by two equally excited individuals who introduced themselves as Mike and Meg. When asked how they knew Hamayon—are you friends or family?—Meg smiled and said, a little bit of both. Those categories are not enough to describe their incredible bond.
Hamayon was sworn into US citizenship on St. Patrick’s Day. The man who came with him had sponsored his and his family’s visas after they served in the US military together in Afghanistan back in 2012. Lieutenant Colonel Mike Kelvington was at the time serving as captain of the 82nd Airborne Division in the Army and Hamayon was his Commander Interpreter and Linguistic and Cultural Advisor. He and his wife Meg had driven from Columbus just to celebrate Hamayon’s naturalization.
Hamayon shared how Mike was his closest friend from the military. Mike was trusted by the local Afghan leaders because of his intelligence, cultural sensitivity, and development projects, and Hamayon provided priceless advice on making important decisions and protecting the local community. He and Hamayon struck up a deep and trusting friendship. They talked with each other even when Mike wasn’t in Afghanistan. When the situation in Afghanistan worsened, Mike sponsored Hamayon’s visa and took his case all the way to Congress. The visa process took nearly five years (“Longer than it should have!” Mike said multiple times), during which Mike sent Hamayon updates of the process and assured him not to worry, that he and his family were going to get out.
In 2016, Hamayon, his wife, and his children were finally able to come to the United States, where they settled in Mike's hometown of Akron, OH. Mike helped Hamayon get settled in the United States and make it his home by showing Hamayon how to look up schools, how to enroll in college, and navigate other new experiences that challenge many immigrants and refugees. Mike was also responsible for helping Hamayon’s brother evacuate from Afghanistan last year and settle in Canada, where he still lives today. “Without his help and sponsorship, it would not be possible to come to this stage,” Hamayon said.
Mike showed Hamayon a deep and grateful respect in return. He shared how much Hamayon advised and supported him in Afghanistan. The duo helped the local people while they worked to solve a complex and sensitive problem for seven months. Mike described Hamayon as responsive and courageous. “Hamayon [went] out on the mission and [assumed] the risk like we all did, and really to do what he’s swearing an oath to do today,” said Mike. “Which is to support and defend the Constitution of the United States...He’s already proven his loyalties and his support. He showed that for years in Afghanistan supporting our mission and service members.”
Hamayon said that being a US citizen means having rights and responsibilities. “That’s the most exciting thing, is to be able to vote, to participate more, and [to have] freedoms,” he said. As he mentioned the perks of having a US passport, he put his hand on Mike’s shoulder, the two men brimming with joy and affection. “And I get to have it because of my brother.”
Judge Greenberg congratulates Hamayon with a fist bump at the Carl B. Stokes Federal Building
Hamayon registers to vote for the first time as a US citizen