I hope you get a chance to meet a refugee personally some day, to learn the story of why they had to flee their homeland and cannot return, and how they have succeeded as a new American. The stories are inspirational.

My first personal experience with refugees was on a U.S. Navy nuclear submarine in the South China Sea where we came upon a broken-down sampan with 18 men and 4 young boys aboard, a typhoon nearing the area. These were refugees escaped from Viet Cong prison. At that time there was no US policy to admit refugees. Our operational command authority told us to use our best judgment. Without rescue these refugees would die. We checked out these people for weapons, brought them on board, shared food and clothing, and took them to Hong Kong for subsequent transfer to Australia.

There are estimated 25 million refugees in camps around the world, people threatened with loss of life in war, discrimination, famine. As you know there are moral, economic, market and results oriented reasons to help some of them. Refugees who find their way to Pocatello mostly for higher and technical education have been carefully examined for good qualities.

Post Navy I’ve hired refugees in my manufacturing business. These people have become best employees — dependable, hard working, learning. Governor Little warns of economic downturn in Idaho mostly driven by lack of quality and quantity in our talent base. Refugees often fill gaps and add value themselves through productive work and through entrepreneurial activity such as starting new business. We know that the Chobani CEO is not a native American but has created thousands of jobs, many in Twin Falls. After a few months of learning language and customs refugees are tax payers, not tax absorbers.

I am grateful for Mayor Blad and City Council for recognizing the value of a few refugees in our midst. We can learn lessons from refugees about resilience, persistence and hard work.

Larry Gebhardt

Pocatello