On Friday, May 5, Navy SEAL and Maine native Senior Chief Petty Officer Kyle Milliken, 38, was killed in Somalia during a raid on a building held by the al-Shabaab terror group.
Somalia has been without a government for more than two decades, and many innocent lives have been lost due to the civil war. Despite the recent presidential election in Somalia, there are parts that are still not safe due to ongoing civil strife and terrorism.
Kyle Milliken, along with others from the U.S. military, have been trying to help the Somalian people fight the terrorists, establish peace, and protect those who cannot protect themselves.
According to the United Nations, one in every 122 people in the world is either a refugee, has been displaced within their own country, or is seeking asylum as a result of humanitarian crises like the war in Somalia, the country of my birth.
There are millions of people worldwide who are living in refugee camps and simply can’t go back to their homes because they fear certain death. The refugee camps, some of which have more than twice the population of the Lewiston-Auburn area, are often no more than tent cities and are incredibly dangerous. There is little food, water, sanitation, or security. Health care is almost nonexistent, though disease and malnutrition are prevalent.
I am forever grateful that the United States was willing to accept me as a refugee and I am indebted to this country and its military forces for putting themselves in harm’s way in order to assist those around the world who have lived through situations like mine.
I am thankful for people like Kyle Milliken.
As an American citizen, I join the swell of voices in offering my most sincere condolences to his family and friends, and gratitude to him for his valor. As a refugee from the ongoing war in Somalia, my heart is particularly heavy. I regret that I cannot do more in the aftermath of this tragedy than express my deep sadness.
While you cannot hear from the Somalians who remain trapped by the ongoing violence, I hope you will know the respect and appreciation they have for the sacrifices made by American troops who are working to restore peace. I know that I speak for countless Somalian refugees in the United States and citizens of Somalia alike when I pay reverence to Kyle Milliken with lasting respect and immeasurable appreciation for his sacrifice.

Rilwan Osman is executive director of Maine Immigrant & Refugee Services (offices in Lewiston and Portland) www.meirs.org

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