Combined Arms’ long-standing work in support of Houston’s Special Immigrant Visa holders (SIVs) & Allies population made us uniquely positioned to scale our efforts to assist with the resettlement of thousands of Afghans arriving in Houston and across the state of Texas following the fall of Afghanistan. Founded in 2019 and led by longtime volunteer and USMC veteran Cress Clippard until late 2021, Combined Arms’ SIVs & Allies Program engages veterans, SIV recipients, and other volunteers to work closely with local resettlement agencies to fill resource gaps and provide resource navigation support for recently-arrived SIV holders (SIVs) and other wartime allies.
With over 100 committed volunteers, Combined Arms' SIVs & Allies Group helped support the estimated 1,700 SIVs that arrived in Houston between 2017 and August 2021. The group worked very closely with all five resettlement agencies working in Houston: YMCA, Interfaith Ministries, The Alliance, Catholic Charities, and Refugee Services of Texas. We welcomed our allies at the airport and accompanied them to their new homes. Our volunteers paid periodic home visits to our SIVs & Allies, making sure they had someone to talk to if they needed something. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we learned that most of our SIVs & Allies did not have access to computers and technology which made remote learning and staying connected nearly impossible. We took this opportunity to partner with corporate and other private entities to solicit and repurpose laptop computers and issue them to SIVs & Allies families at no cost.
In February 2021, Texas experienced record-breaking cold that led to a three-day power outage across the state. Water pipes were frozen and drinking water was scarce, especially for those underserved communities. Combined Arms partnered with Richards Rainwater, a local facility that purifies rain water, to conduct an emergency water distribution operation. Our volunteers cleared out an entire warehouse of purified and bottled rainwaters and distributed them among the veteran community. The SIVs & Allies community received a huge share of those donated waters. We distributed over ten pallets of bottled water to SIVs & Allies in several apartment complexes throughout Houston.
Our volunteers also helped the SIVs & Allies community navigate resources that were available to them. We organized social gatherings and events, which allowed SIVs & Allies to meet with other community members, socialize, and build relationships and networks.
By the end of August/beginning of September 2021, we witnessed the evacuation of at-risk Afghans. Over 70k at-risk Afghans were brought to the United States and placed in processing centers in several locations across the country. The massive influx of Afghans overwhelmed not only federal agencies, but also all the resettlement agencies. Our legacy of service to the SIV & Allies community allowed Combined Arms to spring into action, formalizing, refining, and scaling our longtime volunteer-led SIV & Allies Program in order to meet the immediate and evolving needs of our wartime allies as they embark upon their new lives in the United States.