By Joe Jenkins
Amid the contentious debate over the U.S. response to the global refugee crisis, veterans are quickly becoming one of the most powerful voices in the room.
In addition to high ranking military leaders and national security experts, veterans of all ranks are now speaking out in support of an American-led effort to tackle the worst refugee crisis since the second world war. Young veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have seen the devastation that conflict brings, and are acutely aware of the responsibility the United States has to refugees.
In a video released by Human Rights First, Veterans for American Ideals leaders make the case that welcoming refugees not only upholds American values—it is vital to national security and global stability.
“Taking these refugees and making them a part of a vibrant America by adding to our diversity and being stronger together is actually what’s going to increase our chance of ensuring our national security,” says former Navy Seal and Council on Foreign Relations adviser Eric Gardiner.
U.S. Army Captain Matt Gallagher also believes that the refugee crisis is a chance for the United States to affirm its moral leadership in the world. “What better way to prove to these young, impressionable minds in refugee camps that America practices what it preaches,” says Gallagher. “[Refugees] are seeking peace, stability, an opportunity to prosper—the same things all of our families sought when they came to America’s shores”.
For former U.S. Army Sergeant Lauren Augustine, it’s not only a matter of American ideals, it’s a matter of maintaining our military readiness. “If we speak to the world and say ‘this is how we as Americans are treating outsiders,’ how long do we have as a country that we can stand on that before it turns on us and people are not willing to fight for this country?” says Augustine.
Next week, world leaders will convene in New York for the U.N. General Assembly and President Obama’s Refugee Leaders’ Summit. There, the United States has an opportunity to heed the advice of these veteran leaders and so many others.
“If we come together . . . and build a coalition of support to say enough is enough with the fear mongering and hateful rhetoric, we’re not going to stand for it. Our voice is louder than yours now.”