Persistence & Determination Alone Featured in CBS's "The United States of Al" While interviewing General David Petraeus, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, and "The Big Bang Theory" creator and writers Chuck Lorre, Maria Ferrari and David Goetsch on an episode of his The Takeout podcast, Major Garrett (Missouri 1984) described CBS’s new show "The United States of Al" succinctly: “This is a show that will matter. It is the bravest comedy I have seen in about a decade." The show is about a Marine, Riley, trying to resettle his Afghan interpreter (Al) in Ohio. Yes, it’s a comedy, and it deftly tackles 20 years of war and the very serious issue of keeping our moral obligation to our allies. James Miervaldis (Johns Hopkins 2006) knows this all too well. He serves as the Chairman of No One Left Behind (www.nooneleft.org), the only national nonprofit that works to resettle Afghan and Iraqi interpreters once they reach the U.S. After returning from Afghanistan in 2011, James worked for three years to help his Afghan counterpart navigate the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV)
process. Many Phi Gams have been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq over the last two decades, and many served directly with interpreters who were the bridges between cultures. Most all of these interpreters have been targeted because of their affiliation with the United States while they wait for years for the visa that was promised them. The hope is that "The United States of Al" brings the SIV issue into America’s living rooms so that the country does not repeat what happened after the U.S. left Vietnam over 50 years ago. All that is standing in the way is the Taliban, a 14-step bureaucracy John Oliver described as harder to navigate than getting off heroin, and a waning interest in Afghanistan. Chuck Lorre decided to take it all on. When asked about the show by the Associated Press, Miervaldis said, “We were nervous. How was Hollywood going to capture this very serious situation, and make it funny and relatable to 99% of the country that hasn’t been overseas or worn the uniform in this day and age?” After seeing several episodes, he considers the series and its characters as “very true” to his own experience, starting with the airport reunion of Al, played by Adhir Kalyan, and Riley, the former Marine, played by Parker Young. Dean Norris (“Breaking Bad”) co-stars as Riley’s hospitable dad. “It brought back a lot of good emotions,” Miervaldis said. “I choked up. I laughed. I wasn’t sure how the other episodes would go, but I had the same reaction, having lived this life with my interpreter for almost five years.” Nothing in this world... t
James Miervaldis (left) with his Afghan Interpreter (right).
THE PHI GAMMA DELTA|SPRING 2021