News from the Week of November 11th

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Originally from Freetown, Sierra Leone, Specialist Mohamed Sullaiman joined the U.S. Army in 2015. Although Sullaiman has been on active duty for the last three years, his wife and kids remain in Freetown. He chooses to serve not just for himself, but because he knows he can give them a better life. "I am here working for my family," said Sullaiman, who deployed to Afghanistan with the Rock Battalion in early spring 2018 to fight for the country he now calls his own.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Kirstjen Nielsen, homeland security secretary, visited Base Camp Donna in Texas on Wednesday. During a 90-minute tour, a soldier asked Mr. Mattis what the goals of the mission are, the New York Times reports. “Short term, get the obstacles in,” Mr. Mattis replied, apparently referring to concertina wire. “Long term, it is somewhat to be determined.”

Catholic Relief Services is partnering with award-winning photographer Jeremy Cowart to create “Be Unafraid.” The exhibit features portraits and stories of resettled refugees and their American neighbors. For two participants—Maggie Anderson, a conservative woman, and Bnyad Sharif, an Iraqi refugee—the project sparked an unexpected friendship.  

Both Anderson and Sharif told Mic they have learned from one another, and believe their story offers a broader lesson to Americans: despite the polarized political climate at the moment, it’s still possible to find common ground with your neighbor.

Amed Alfaraji served as an interpreter for the U.S. Army in Iraq. Today, he lives in Brooklyn,  where he helps resettled refugees throughout New York and New Jersey as the director of community outreach at Downtown Arab American Family Support Center. “I am a proud refugee, and a proud American, so I want to pay back to help other people,” he says.

In case you missed it, check out our Veterans Day re-cap from VFAI leader Cate Klepacki. “VFAI leaders in fifteen places across the country stepped up by coordinating service projects and co-hosting events with the Travis Manion Foundation, The Mission Continues and other local veterans organizations,” Cate writes. “Our leaders penned op-eds in Kansas CityWinston-SalemHoustonPhiladelphiaDenverDetroit, and Los Angeles. VFAI founder and my dear friend Scott Cooper was featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition!”

“The First Thanksgiving,” is well worth the read this week. The New York Times piece describes how newly arrived refugees plan to celebrate and embrace the holiday on Thursday. Bountiful with diverse stories and flavors, it also serves as a heartwarming reminder to give thanks for our homes, families, and freedoms in this nation. Happy Thanksgiving from the VFAI team!