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Public Statements

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. GABBARD. Madam Chair, I rise in strong support of this amendment to improve the Special Immigrant Visa programs for local civilians who put their lives in danger to aid our troops as they've served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We see in times of war and in times of conflict that our servicemembers are lauded and honored for their service and tremendous sacrifice, but there are many stories that remain untold. There are many unseen heroes who sacrifice every single day as they serve alongside our troops.

During my first deployment to Iraq, I served in a medical unit, and we had two interpreters who worked with us on a daily basis. One was named Kaddam. He sat in our clinic, went out on missions with our medics. I spoke to him almost every day and learned so much about his family, his community, and the challenges that he overcame every day to just work with us.

He drove home every night with a firearm under his driver's seat, in fear, not only of his own life, but in fear of the health and safety of his family. He had a few young children, and he spoke very strongly about his hopes and his dreams for them being able to have a future, to have an education, which was a far cry from the life that he was living there; and that's why he served with us.

We had another interpreter who we called, our Hawaii unit called Kahuna. And his situation was very different. He lived in secrecy, where his neighbors and his friends didn't know that he was working with us; and because of that, he stayed in our camp. He lived with us and worked with us on a daily basis because he believed in what we were doing, and he wouldn't want to risk his family's life.

The stories go on and on of those who have sacrificed so much, not only because they believed in what we were doing, what our mission was, what our work was, but in the hopes that they could also live a free life for themselves, a life where they were not fraught on a daily basis with just getting by.

And for that, I personally stand in strong support of this.

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