Today we have the distinct honor of bringing to you a very special series from men and women who have served in our Armed Services. This piece comes from Jake Harriman, founder and CEO of Nuru International. Jake served over 7 years in the Marine Corps as an Infantry Platoon Commander and a Special Operations Platoon Commander for an elite unit called Force Recon:
On this Veteran’s Day 2009, the United States once again finds itself engaged in conflict. As you read these words, the brave men and women of our armed forces are battling Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and splinter terrorist organizations in half a dozen other countries around the world.
But on this Veteran’s Day I want to speak to you from the frontlines of a different war – a war against a senseless, unnecessary evil that daily takes thousands more lives than are lost in Baghdad, Gaza, Kandahar, Mogadishu, and Jaffna combined. It is the war against extreme poverty.
I have had the unique experience of fighting in both of these battles.
I spent 7-and-a-half years as a Marine Corps Infantry and Special Operations Platoon Commander – serving four operational tours in Iraq, the Horn of Africa, and other areas of southwest Asia. During combat operations in Iraq, I had several very profound experiences that awakened me to the fact that the only way to see the end of terrorism is to end extreme poverty.
My men and I saw the desperation in the eyes of poor farmers who were coerced by Jihadists into fighting the Americans. Why? Is it out of some misplaced/ignorant sense of hatred for the West and all it stands for? No. It is because the farmers’ children were starving and the Jihadists promised food, education and money if they fought the Americans.
Extreme poverty strips a person of real choices. A life without choices leads to desperation, and desperate people do desperate things.
When my commitment was up, I left my career in the Marines and set out to create an organization to fight extreme poverty. Nuru International partners with the rural poor in the developing world and other nonprofit and for profit organizations to end extreme poverty one community at a time. We don’t give handouts, but instead through training and empowerment we actually equip the poor to become the answers to their own problems.
There is hope for those without choices. We can end extreme poverty in our lifetimes, and in so doing, answer the cry of the desperate, give a voice to the voiceless, and provide choices to impoverished men and women who have been struggling for so long.
A revolution has begun…a revolution to wake up and mobilize a generation to end this fight once and for all. There is no room in this fight for egos, partisan politics, or ideological differences. One sixth of humanity cries out to us today – asking you and me to simply put our differences aside and use our talent, skills and resources to empower them with choices. This Veteran’s Day, I ask you to step forward and get in the fight with us. In so doing, you will ensure that thousands of brave veterans and countless global citizens have not sacrificed their lives in this war in vain. Join the revolution. Be hope. Be light. Be Nuru.
All images copyright Nuru International 2009