Making Our Voices Heard on World Refugee Day


From coast to coast on Monday, World Refugee Day, veterans and refugees came together to discuss the need for U.S. leadership on the refugee crisis and what America represents to them.

We found a lot of common ground. Aseel, a refugee now living in Boston, explained: “Veterans and refugees have all had experiences that change who you are as a human being.”

As Director of National Security Outreach at Human Rights First and Veterans for American Ideals founder Scott Cooper shared with CNN’s Brooke Baldwin, for many veterans, those experiences make this issue very personal.

In New York, Navy SEAL veteran Eric Gardiner shared that helping his Afghan interpreter resettle in the United States was one of the most important things he’s ever done. In San Francisco, Army veteran Conor McNamara expressed frustration that none of the brave men and women he served alongside in Afghanistan made it to America, and remain at risk. In D.C., Army veteran Lauren Augustine said succinctly: veterans want to give back.

A week after an amendment to extend and expand the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program was defeated, leaving more than 7,000 Afghan interpreters at risk, the message from so many veterans was clear: “There is so much more that we as a country ought to be doing.”

Across the country, we found that the values that inspired many veterans to serve are the same values that make the United States a beacon for many refugees. And U.S. leadership on the refugee crisis is imperative to upholding those values.

We also demonstrated that veterans can be a decisive voice in the national conversation, especially if we’re working in close collaboration with our allies in the refugee community. We’ll be keeping these conversations going. Want to be involved? Sign up at or email us at [email protected].