Hollywood comes calling for Marine and Afghan battlefield translator he pushed to get out of Afghanistan

Robert Rodat, nominated for an Academy Award for ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ has signed on write the screenplay, says Marine Maj. Thomas Schueman, a Chicago native.

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Zainullah Zaki, an Afghani translator who worked with the U.S. military, with his family just before they were able finally to get out of Afghanistan to safety after the U.S. pullout.

Zainullah Zaki, an Afghani translator who worked with the U.S. military, with his family just before they were able finally to get out of Afghanistan to safety after the U.S. pullout.

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Marine Corps Maj. Thomas Schueman says he’s signed a deal with Hollywood producers Allyn Stewart and Hawk Koch to tell the story of his efforts to help his battlefield translator flee Afghanistan and the Taliban after the U.S. pullout.

Schueman, a Chicago native, says they’ve brought in screenwriter Robert Rodat, who was nominated for an Academy Award for “Saving Private Ryan,” to write the screenplay.

Schueman’s former translator Zainullah Zaki also signed onto the project, though he and his family aren’t fully settled yet in the United States. Zaki, his wife and four children are staying for now in temporary housing at Fort Pickett in Virginia, according to Schueman.

“He definitely is trying to get out of there — that’s for sure,” Schueman said, with plans to settle in Texas, where a cousin lives.

Schueman, a Marist High School grad, fought to secure a U.S. visa for Zaki — a man he believes saved his life and those of countless other Marines through his work as an interpreter for American forces in Afghanistan.

The visa never came through.

But after three frantic attempts, Zaki and his family found their way into Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport in August, navigating past Taliban checkpoints and the chaos of thousands trying to flee after the U.S. troop pullout. Zaki said the Taliban had threatened to kill him if they found him.

He and his family made stops in Qatar, then Germany, before finally arriving in the United States.

Schueman served in Afghanistan’s Helmand River valley for seven months in 2010, during which 25 Marines died and more than 200 were wounded. Schueman was awarded a Purple Heart after he and others were ambushed in a field on Nov. 9, 2010.

His squad leader “stepped on an improvised explosive device, and he lost his leg,” according to Schueman, who remains on active duty but now teaches English literature at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

Marine Maj. Thomas Schueman (right), a Chicago native, in Afghanistan. At left is Lt. William Donnelly, a friend of Schueman who was killed in action. Center is First Lt. Cameron West.

Marine Maj. Thomas Schueman (right), a Chicago native, in Afghanistan. At left is Lt. William Donnelly, a friend of Schueman who was killed in action. Center is First Lt. Cameron West.

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Asked who he’d like to see play him in the movie, Schueman said he’s heard some suggest Adam Driver and that he’d be fine with that even though they look nothing alike.

“I like the idea that he was a Marine,” Schueman said.

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