As we close out National Veterans and Military Families Month, we are forever grateful for the men and women who are currently serving or have served in the U.S. military. Earlier this month, as part of our annual Salute to Service, we welcomed hundreds of visitors from the military community and recognized different branches through tributes on the memorial.
To mark the end of November, this installment of the Visionaries in Service series, highlighting the service and work of our Visionary Network, features Philip Caruso, an Air Force veteran who retired as a Major with two Bronze Stars. Today, he serves as Chairman and Executive Director of No One Left Behind, a non-profit focused on supporting former interpreters and U.S. government employees eligible for the Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program.
Why did you join the military?
As a child, I devoured history books, inspired by the many seemingly ordinary people in history who rose to the occasion when needed and became transformational leaders in our society (for example, Abraham Lincoln, Harry Truman, and hometown heroes like Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony). I thought that I might one day do my part when the moment arose. That moment came for me while a high school student in Rochester, NY. On September 11, 2001, it was in my math class where we watched the towers fall on a television and I understood then that our country would never be the same. I wanted to contribute to our country’s confrontation of a challenging problem — terrorism — at a key moment in history, and so in 2004 when I graduated high school, I enlisted in the Air Force Reserve as an officer candidate. I completed ROTC at Cornell University and was commissioned in 2008.
What does service mean to you?
Public service is my ultimate motivation. I define that liberally: government service, charitable service, and private sector work with a strong concern for public welfare are all forms of service. Service guides both my ambitions and how I choose to spend my time. For example, after seven years of full-time military service I spent seven more in the Air Force Reserve and have spent thousands of hours as a non-profit volunteer while pursuing experiences in the private sector — but I will always serve. I hope to return to full-time government service again in my career.
What is No One Left Behind?
No One Left Behind is the oldest charitable organization focused specifically on supporting former interpreters and U.S. government employees eligible for the Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) programs. We help evacuate deserving SIV applicants to safety, and provide resettlement assistance to help them start new lives as Americans. We also advocate for our allies with the U.S. government, provide subject matter expertise to the media, and partner with other charitable organizations, advocacy groups, and major American employers to provide opportunities to new Afghan-Americans and Iraqi-Americans.
No One Left Behind was co-founded by Janis Shinwari, an Afghan interpreter for U.S. forces who saved the lives of five American soldiers in combat. When donors raised $35,000 to support his family's resettlement in 2013, he instead used the funds to co-found No One Left Behind. Ever since, Janis and No One Left Behind have paid his gratitude forward to new SIV recipients starting their lives as Americans.
I have been fortunate to serve on the Board of Directors since 2019, and I have been further fortunate to lead the organization as the Chairman and Executive Director since September 2021.