Dear Friends, Family, and Fellow Residents of St. Louis,
My name is Charles Mullenger – I am a St. Louis native, small business leader in Maryland Heights, and a former Captain in the U.S. Army who served in Operation Enduring Freedom in 2012 & 2013. The recent and swift takeover by the Taliban in Afghanistan has sent a sharp and cold dagger through hundreds of thousands of U.S. military veterans and Afghan supporters who poured blood, sweat, and tears into this 20-year-old conflict, and the cost is more than many of us can bear. However, our fight is not over.
I wish I could explain here the efforts of my fellow veterans and contemporaries working to evacuate our friendly forces from Afghanistan, bringing them and their families to safety, but my words would do little to no justice. I am part of several active group chats with peers and friendly forces around the nation and with boots on the ground in Kabul – each morning I wake up to thousands of messages and success stories as we tirelessly work to support those who aided, protected, and befriended our fellow American fighters.
As I write this note, thousands of Afghans are being evacuated to Qatar and Kuwait, where they will be vetted for potential entry into the United States of America. Our very own home of St. Louis, MO is preparing and committing to receive 1,000 Afghan refugees for a new, welcomed life in the city of St. Louis and surrounding areas. Upon a recent conversation with the International Institute of St. Louis, my personal mission shifted to this effort:
“The International Institute has for many years welcomed waves of refugees to St. Louis and is very experienced with resettlement. However, this time around, no one can be prepared enough for the crisis that we face. With an unprecedented number of projected Afghan arrivals and the need to build capacity to welcome these new neighbors we must deploy an unprecedented number of resources to meet the need. Our welcome is only as good as the community that stands with us. We cannot do this alone; we rely on the help of the community to provide a welcome with the dignity that our new neighbors deserve. As President and CEO of the International Institute I am humbled by efforts of veterans like Charles Mullenger who saw firsthand the kindness of these Afghans as they were at the battle front and are now working to pay it forward. I salute their efforts. Thank you to our veterans, thank you for your service, but fight continues right here.” Arrey Obenson, President of the International Institute of St. Louis.
This fundraiser is vital to the successful integration of the Afghans we hope to welcome soon. The $250,000 in funds will go directly to:
- Multi-passenger vans for transportation needs upon arrival to St. Louis
- Household goods and furnishings for incoming refugees
- Increased staffing capacity at IISTL to meet the forthcoming needs
My American brothers and sisters in uniform who served in Afghanistan will agree – we owe our allies from Afghanistan and their families the continued taste of freedom that we offered for the past twenty years. Let’s bring them home where they belong, and provide a path to success in the wonderful city of St. Louis.
K. Charles Mullenger