Afghan and Iraqi Translators Saved American Lives. Make them "Honorary Veterans."
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While serving in the US Army in 2008, my Afghan interpreter Janis Shinwari saved my life. During an intense firefight, Janis killed two Taliban fighters that had snuck up behind me. Without Janis, they would have killed me.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, translators serve alongside the US military and are essential to keeping us safe and helping us do our mission. And they do so at the risk of being targeted by the Taliban, including their families.
Janis is not the exception. There are many translators who have saved American lives on the battlefield. Like Fred, who saved 25 members of the Pennsylvania National Guard.Supporters had to crowdfund the money to fly him and his family to the US before the Taliban killed him. After serving, Steeler's Offensive Tackle and Army Ranger Alejandro Villaneuva worked hard to get his Afghan translator here.
After serving alongside our military, many translators received SIV’s or Special Immigrant Visas, so they could relocated to the United States. Unfortunately, they are not considered veterans.
We are asking Congress to honor its promise to our wartime allies. We want them to be treated as the heroes they are when they finally come here after years of screening by the State Department, Defense Department, and Department of Homeland Security. All we are asking is for Congress to name them "Honorary Veterans" so that they can check the veteran's preference box on job applications and 56,000 veteran focused charities to include them in their missions. Many are standing by. We are not asking for VA benefits. This is an innovative idea that comes at no cost to the taxpayer and requires no new regulations. Best of all, we have bipartisan support! Yes, people in D.C. can agree on the same thing.
This is a simple wording issue. These charities can't help Special Immigrant Visa recipients because technically they are "non-veterans." Ask me if I think my translator is a veteran. Ask the guys from the Pennsylvania National Guard who spent their own money to fly their translator here if he is a veteran. Ask Alejandro.
Since at least World War 2, the United States has a very checkered history of honoring our promises to our wartime allies. Yes, big alliances like NATO matter, but it is the friendships and trust at the individual level that is our greatest diplomatic tool. The world knows that we didn't fully take care of the Filipino soldiers that helped us in World War 2, the Koreans during the Korean War, the Vietnamese during the Vietnam War, and now the brave men and women from Afghanistan and Iraq who risked everything to stand shoulder to shoulder with us. With your help, we can change this.
We need your voice to get this to the Senate floor. It's time the American people demand our representatives to stand shoulder to shoulder with those that saved American lives. I have a family today because of my translator.
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