DL man takes fight to media

A Detroit Lakes man trapped in Japan with his wife and daughter are making his pleas for help viral. Brook Chelmo is in what his mother, Joyce, calls "fighter mode" as he launches a Facebook campaign, urging anybody willing to contact Congression...

Trapped in Japan

A Detroit Lakes man trapped in Japan with his wife and daughter are making his pleas for help viral.

Brook Chelmo is in what his mother, Joyce, calls "fighter mode" as he launches a Facebook campaign, urging anybody willing to contact Congressional leaders, specifically Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.

His hopes are that a media blitz will be enough to light a fire under Minnesota leaders who have the power to bring him, his Japanese wife, Keiko, and his 14-month-old daughter, Aria back to Detroit Lakes.

And it seems to be working.

Local and state media outlets have picked up the story, and the spotlight seems to be shifting to the Chelmo family.


"Klobuchar's office has called me like four times now," said Brook Chelmo's mother, Joyce, adding, "they're looking for information so they can possibly get them expedited back here."

The problem lies with Chelmo's Japanese wife, Keiko, who does not have a visa.

Since 9/11, the law requires non-American spouses to apply for visas outside of the country first, which is a lengthy process.

The Chelmos have been waiting to get back to the U.S. for quite a while, but the 9.0 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear threat has them scrambling to get out now.

"We're not looking for a golden ticket or a hand out," says Chelmo. "We just want something that was granted to people before 9/11 and that is to bring in my wife from a foreign country and apply for a visa to live and a green card for my wife to work in the U.S."

A spokesman for Senator Klobuchar's office, Ross Corson, says they've been doing everything they can to speed up the process.

"All the paperwork is in order, and now it's in the hands of the U.S. embassy in Tokyo," Corson said. "I know things are very chaotic over there (at the American embassy), but we're just trying to cut through some of the red tape and get the Chelmo family home."

Corson said he could not give a time frame as to when that would be.


In the meantime, Brook Chelmo says he has received phone calls from the embassy, but says they are incredibly difficult to work with.

"The embassy ironically told me to follow the standard system, although they are not handling visa cases now because they are focused on evacuations," Chelmo said.

So, the family still remains in limbo.

For now, they are safe, since they live eight hours southwest of the big earthquake and four hours south of the latest nuclear powerplant explosion.

However, the latest fear, aside from nuclear fallout, is that large, independent earthquakes will make their way further south on the same plate, towards the Chelmo family.

"They say that will likely happen in a month or less," said Chelmo.

They now pray for the best, but prepare for the worst as they brace furniture and charge batteries in the event of a blackout.

"It is a 24-hour battle, and the situation stands on a knife's edge," Chelmo said.


Deepening the danger is their baby daughter's rare medical condition, as she requires a machine (run by electricity) to keep her breathing at night.

Without it, she would likely die.

This means a blackout could prove dangerous, even deadly for Aria.

Now, the Chelmos pin their hopes on the media and the news about another American family living in Japan who also saw the spotlight.

"Because of their media blitz, their case got the attention they needed to get support and are now working on evacuation, from what I know," Chelmo said.

One of the people supporting this public push for action is school friend and Detroit Lakes native Jennifer Olson, who says all the attention Brook and his family are getting speaks volumes for both him and his upbringing.

"When you live in a small town like Detroit Lakes and grow up there all your life like Brook and I did, the whole town and everyone in it feels like family," she said, adding, "I only wish I could do more to not only support Brook and his family, but pull some magical strings to get him, Keiko, and Aria home now."

Chelmo hopes this magic string comes in the form of continued support through media -- both conventional and social.


He hopes the thoughts from around the world and the Facebook campaign will produce results.

"We made that page (the Facebook page) to help funnel "best wishes" into real action," said Chelmo.

Keiko Chelmo seems to be already feeling the support from the Detroit Lakes area, writing, "As You know, I am a Japanese Lady, and I am so impressed with American thinking and how quickly you guys act and how well you take on challenges. God bless you and thank you SOOOOO much!"

To become a part of the campaign to bring the Chelmo family home, log onto Facebook and search for "Help the Chelmo Family."

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