Leave No Man Behind

As a military pilot who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, I firmly believe that supporting our troops is vital to our national security today and in the future. Our men and women who sacrifice to serve and protect this great nation need our support while they serve and when they come home. But we must also support those who have risked their lives to serve alongside our American armed forces and personnel overseas in order to advance the cause of freedom and protect the United States. Leave no man behind is more than a policy, it’s a core principle deeply embedded in our military.

Throughout my time in Congress, I have been very outspoken about the importance of sustaining the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for our Afghan and Iraqi allies that served as translators and interpreters for U.S. personnel. For too long, this program has been a target for those that do not believe we need to honor our commitment to these individuals that risked so much to assist the United States. This vital program is on the verge of fizzling out and fading away. We cannot allow that to happen. Too many lives depend on it, and we cannot let those people down who gave so much to serve the cause of freedom and liberty for our country.

Since 2008, close to 14,000 special immigrant visas have been issued. But today, interviews have now completely stopped as there are not enough visas left to accommodate the more than 10,000 applicants on the waiting list. Unfortunately, it leaves these brave individuals waiting for the safe haven they were promised but may never get. Many of these men and women are targeted by groups like the Taliban and Al Qaeda for helping U.S. military and personnel, and some have already been captured and killed. They cannot stay in their homes, cannot return home safely despite their efforts to bring so many of our military men and women home safely.

I have met with several interpreters/translators during my time in Congress, when they have come to Capitol Hill to talk about this issue and during our visits overseas. These are our brothers and sisters — they have served alongside us then and it’s time for us to stand up for them now. The story of Jamshid and Mati is far too common. This video about their struggles, their wait, and their current living conditions really struck a chord, and is a reminder that we must act… and act quickly.

This urgency for action will drive me to work with my colleagues to demand more visas and expand the overall SIV program. I’m glad Senators John McCain and Jeanne Sheehan have also expressed their support for the program, and I’m proud to work with Congressman Earl Blumenauer on the issue as well. Supporting those who supported our men and women in uniform is critically important to our national security and our foreign policy. Turning our back on them isn’t right — and it sends a terrible message about our loyalty to those local populations who currently serve with our armed forces around the world.

This is about real lives and real impacts. We must ensure that we keep our promises to these people — to the Afghani and Iraqi men and women who risked their safety and the safety of their families and loved ones to serve and help the United States. We must be willing to do whatever it takes to keep our word and show our allies that we support them. And that no matter what, we will leave no man or woman behind.