Combined Arms is an organization of action. We’re malleable, innovative, disruptive, aggressive, and a little rough around the edges. I’d have it no other way. We struggled, both individually and collectively, with how to process the fall of Afghanistan, as well as how to best support our community. In typical Combined Arms fashion, we went from ideation to action in less than 24 hours. We decided to host a series of community conversations for veterans, for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs), and for both groups, together.
Over 60 veterans from across the nation turned out for our first virtual town hall on Afghanistan on Tuesday, August 17, 2021. The CAX team reached out to our incredible network of partners and assembled 16 certified peer mentors and licensed mental health professionals to facilitate during the event. We kicked off the evening by introducing participating mental healthcare providers and the resources they offer before moving into breakout rooms for small group conversations. Although we equipped our moderators with prompts and conversation starters, no prompting was needed; participating veterans were quick to share their thoughts and feelings. The energy in the room was electric, but not filled with joy or hope- it was like a dull, white noise feeling of internal static, one that made your body ache and your head feel heavy. It was an exhausting experience, but with each reduction in the body’s PSI, you could feel authentic connection and kinship forming in spite of the virtual environment. People felt seen, heard, and, most importantly, that they were not alone as we all try to navigate this challenging and charged season. One participant shared, “I learned that others had the same shared feelings as me. I needed this conversation. Thank you.”
Raw, authentic, and inspiring, Combined Arms' SIV-focused town hall on Wednesday, August 18 was unlike anything any of us have ever attended. We gave our SIVs and allies the floor to tell their stories. These are our brothers and sisters, who fought alongside us in places like Helmand, Kandahar, Paktia, Wardak, and Kunar, executing patrol after patrol, long after our units headed back stateside. These are people that fought for equality and freedom, risking it all to support what they believed in. Our SIVs were and remain mission-critical assets, perennial best supporting actors and yet most people, including those of us who relied on them daily, don’t know anything about their harrowing experiences in country, the obstacles they faced trying to make good on our nation’s promise to them, or the challenges they face once they arrive on US soil. We listened and learned together, all walking away more determined to show up for SIVs and their families, and each other.
The results of these conversations and communities banding together in times of uncertainty may be the most powerful asset we have as human beings.
During our SIV town hall, an SIV stated "right now I can finally breathe, knowing that this community is here for me." While we cannot control what is happening in Afghanistan, we can and must continue to show up for one another.
Combined Arms would like to extend a special thanks to our partners that served as moderators for our community conversations.
CEO, Combined Arms