New State Department Policy Will Leave Thousands of Veterans Behind To Die
February 16, 2016
I should have died on April 28, 2008. Instead, I was able to return to my family and beautiful baby girl because my Afghan interpreter, Janis Shinwari, killed two Taliban fighters who were about to shoot me. My experience is not unique. Our Afghan and Iraqi interpreters have saved thousands of American lives. They should be treated as heroes. However, our nation is failing to adequately repay our debt to these brave men and their families.
Janis faithfully served America in Afghanistan for 8 years and saved countless American lives. Yet, despite promises the U.S. Military made to every local interpreter supporting our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, it took me more than 3 years to get Janis and his family away from the Taliban fighters hunting them. Janis was lucky. Too often, government red-tape results in our interpreters being left behind and in harm’s way. And for those fortunate enough to receive a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) to come to America like Janis, once here, they and their families are largely left to fend for themselves.
In November 2013, Janis and I started No One Left Behind with one Mission: ensure America treats our interpreters as the heroes and veterans they are. We then started to cut through the bureaucracy, help endangered interpreters and their families immigrate to the United States and establish the services and support they need when they arrive. Headquartered in Washington, DC, we fund resettlement activities through entirely volunteer staffs in the greater DC area and at seven subordinate chapters located in San Francisco, Upstate NY, Boston, Chicago, Charlottesville, Omaha, Denver, and San Diego.
No One Left Behind bridges the gaps in services that exist between current State Department and NGO refugee relief programs and the real life demands presented to our combat interpreters attempting to start a new life in the United States. Our relief operations focus on three areas: housing, employment, and cultural adaptation.
Operation Welcome Home - provides newly arrived interpreters with funding and assistance locating, furnishing, and maintaining temporary apartments in their new cities of residence and, when necessary, procures transportation (i.e. through purchasing a bus pass, train pass, airplane ticket, or automobile). To date, we have provided furnishings to 100 families, paid the rent of 18 families for three months, and purchased cars for 20 families (helping each to gain the job vital to their economic survival).
Operation Got Your Back - assists our interpreter clients through their initial job searches. Our employment service assists our clients with resume development, securing job interviews through professional networking, and coaching them through interviews and applications. We also help our beneficiaries’ family members find English classes to improve their employability and academic success. In order to help smooth the transition and integration into American life, we pair up each family with an American host family to teach our clients American cultural and social norms. With additional resources, our charity will develop a series of formal culture courses that we will offer to beneficiaries at sites around the country in order to orient them to the accepted social, cultural, and legal practices of their new home.
Operation Lost In Translation - reunites interpreters and the US military members with whom they served. Through this program, we recruit US military veterans as volunteers and chapter leaders to help with our operations throughout the country. We also instruct these veterans on how to best navigate the SIV application process in order to decrease the time it takes for a interpreter to receive a life-saving visa.
Go to www.nooneleft.org to learn more.