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Veterans' business uses profits to support education for Afghan girls

Posted at 8:59 AM, Dec 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-03 16:22:54-05

ISSAQUAH, Wash. - Army Rangers Matthew Griffin and Donald Lee served two tours together in Afghanistan where they saw brutal combat and crushing poverty.

"I had a son at that time, and I'm like, 'God, these kids will never have the opportunities that my kids can have,'" Lee said.

After they left the Army, Griffin had an idea.

"I got that call in the middle of the night, saying 'Hey, we're gonna make flip flops in Afghanistan,'" Lee said.

The mission was to make sturdy military-themed flip flops and footwear and use the profits to support education for Afghan girls. They call the company Combat Flip Flops.

"For every product that we sell, we donate to put a girl in school for a day in Afghanistan," Griffin said.

In 2016, they presented their business plan on ABC's "Shark Tank." Three panel members invested $100,000 each. But it's in Afghanistan that their success is most important, where Hassina Sherjan runs schools for over 3,000 girls.

"We have at least 85% illiteracy. We have the highest illiteracy rate in the world," Sherjan said.

To support her schools, Sherjan also runs a small business where her employees make scarves for Combat Flip Flops.

"They're all woven, dyed, sewn, stitched, and tasseled in Afghanistan in a woman-owned factory," Griffin said.

For these veterans, there's another more personal side to this mission.

"We lost six friends during our time in service and is it worth it? And now I can look at something and go, 'Yeah, it's worth it,'" Griffin said.

"I think we're definitely serving their memory," Lee said.

Perhaps flip flops can accomplish something boots on the ground have not.