SIV Sips – Committing to Our Iraqi and Afghan Allies

 As veterans we understand the bond established among teams, especially in combat. Our wartime allies, brave men and women who chose to work hand in hand with the United States, were and continue to be integral to our teams in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Whether these allies arrive in America through the Special Immigrant Visa program or the refugee program, we understand the challenges of starting over in a new place.

Our SIV Sips, community gatherings at local Starbucks stores, bring veterans together with SIV Recipients, refugees and community partners. We equip our brothers and sisters in arms with a network of supporters and let them know: we are on their team.   

This month we hosted five SIV Sips around the nation: in Dallas and Houston, Texas, Falls Church, Virginia, Atlanta, Georgia, and Charlotte, North Carolina. Each fostered a sense of belonging to something one and the same: America and the opportunities she provides. Thanks to all the VFAI leaders that made these happen, and a special shout-out to the local Starbucks managers for all their support!


On Monday, July 23rd, VFAI members in Dallas hosted the first SIV Sip of the month at Metroplex Starbucks. Wanting to beat the heat with some iced coffee and chat with fellow members of their community, Dallas veterans gave local SIVs a good ole Texas welcome.

Two days later, our Washington, D.C. chapter hosted a Sip in northern Virginia. Our partners at the Falls Church Starbucks went above and beyond as per usual—they even decorated our group’s table with American flags and a welcome banner! We had some great conversations, includng with Cindy Fogleman of the Iraqi Children Foundation, Hussein, a local Lyft driver, and Mehmet, a Turkish-American Imam based in Fairfax. 

Mehmet and Hussein shared stories about coming to America and the challenges they faced. They shared that they feel overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity to live in America. At a time in our nation when, unfortunately, rhetoric about refugees and immigrants can feel very negative, it was affirming to witness their optimism.

We also learned that connection can happen anywhere. Hussein was driving one of our colleagues in a Lyft and they chatted about his experience in Iraq. She referred him to VFAI and that’s how he came to be at the SIV Sips!

Later that week, our Atlanta chapter hosted an SIV Sip of their own. Brought together by a shared understanding of respect and service; participants told their stories. “Sharing food and drink is a bonding experience that stretches across time,” said chapter leader Chris Purdy. “Here in Georgia, in the heart of the Old South, a place once known more for emphasizing the differences between people, we are able to break through barriers through conversation and fellowship.

That same day, the VFAI Houston team met with community partners in their city. Together they brainstormed about potential future events, and discussed how to expand their reach within the Houston region. While things often move sluggishly during summertime, Houston is showing no sign of slowing down! 

Finally, on July 30th, our Charlotte chapter hosted their very first SIV Sip. VFAI leaders met with local SIV recipients and the executive director of the Carolina Refugee Resettlement Agency, Marsha Hirsch. Eager to support their new neighbors, everyone shared best practices in assisting SIV recipients in transition.

Each of these VFAI chapters made their community a bit more welcoming last week. SIV Sips are an easy way to honor the sacrifices of the interpreters and translators that stood by us and to help our nation come together as a community. It’s up to all of us to do our part to make our country the land of opportunity we pride it to be.

If you are interested in hosting a SIV Sip in your community, please contact [email protected] today.