Veterans to Help Resettle Displaced Afghans

Julie H. Case

As refugees begin arriving in the U.S., veterans of the war in Afghanistan are ready to return some lifesaving favors.

Daniel Gardewin can tell you what it’s like to have an Afghan citizen on your side. During the 20 years he served in the Army working in intel, he did multiple tours in Afghanistan. He vividly remembers watching as his section’s Afghan interpreter worked night and day to translate their military jargon to common English, and then into Dari or Pashto for their Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police partners.

“Our interpreter saw the value in that,” says Gardewin. “He could have clocked out at any time, but his dedication to the mission went far and above mine.” In the process, that translator also became a friend to Gardewin.

Now, Gardewin may just get the chance to give some of that friendship back, if not directly to the interpreter he worked with, then at least to some of the regular Afghan citizens who helped make American servicemembers’ jobs a little easier over their 20 years in Afghanistan. That’s because beginning August 30, the veteran-led disaster relief nonprofit Gardewin volunteers with, Team Rubicon, will begin helping with America’s efforts to resettle displaced Afghan citizens. 

Daniel Gardewin during his time serving in Afghanistan.

“What positions Team Rubicon to make significant contributions to the resettlement of Afghan citizens is our ability to leverage volunteers with firsthand experience with the people, the place, and the culture,” said Art delaCruz, CEO of Team Rubicon. “We’ve been giving veterans who served our country in Afghanistan—and around the world—opportunities to serve again in domestic disaster relief operations. Now, during resettlement, we’re giving them an opportunity to serve the Afghan people who supported them during their service. 

Over the coming days, Team Rubicon will be leveraging its network of thousands of volunteers and resources to provide help and support, both inside and outside of resettlement facilities in New Jersey, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Texas.

The first task for Team Rubicon’s volunteers—or Greyshirts—will be to oversee incoming donations and help ensure essential clothes and supplies are distributed to the displaced Afghan citizens. Of the thousands of Afghan citizens who have already arrived in the United States this week, fewer than 10% have anything more than the clothes on their backs. That’s because no one leaving the Kabul airport is allowed to have a suitcase.

It’s just the first step in what will likely be a months-long program to help displaced Afghan citizens resettle in the U.S., with at least some basic clothing and essential supplies. Given that 50,000 to 80,000 Afghans are expected in the U.S. over the next several weeks, the program will likely be ongoing. And, Team Rubicon volunteers such as Gadewin say they will be there to help in any way they can. 

Matt Colvin, a Greyshirt, Team Rubicon’s head of strategic partnerships, and a former U.S. Air Force airborne cryptolinguist deployed twice to Afghanistan, is also passionate about helping ensure the people who made his survival possible are cared for, now. 

“I saw the importance of their work then, and I valued it long after because of all the American lives they saved,” says Colvin. “I want our country to honor our promises to bring them to safety after laying their lives, and the lives of generations of their families, on the line.” 

To honor that promise veterans like Colvin and Gardewin expect to hit the ground running to aid in the Afghan resettlement process beginning this weekend. While their service now may not last the length of an entire war, it’s the least they expect they can do to return the favors given by so many Afghan citizens of the course of the 20-year war. 

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