As a retired member of the United States Foreign Service, I was proud to represent American interests and values in eight countries over my 25 years of service.

This year, Foreign Service Day, established by the U.S. Senate as the first Friday in May, provides an exceptional opportunity to underscore the first and primary responsibility of U.S. diplomats — the protection and security of U.S. citizens overseas.

Members of the U.S. Foreign Service are dedicated, nonpartisan, hard-working public servants whose mission is to promote American interests, values and national security. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to place Americans overseas at risk, members of the Foreign Service have been working around the clock to bring home Americans stranded abroad.

In response to the COVID-19 threat, the U.S. Department of State has coordinated the repatriation of 71,538 Americans on 750 flights from 127 countries and territories. Recent examples include an April 27 flight from Iraq with more than 80 Americans and a flight from India with nearly 230 passengers.

The 10 million or so Americans living or traveling abroad know to contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for help in an emergency, whether personal or in the face of a major disaster or crisis. U.S. Foreign Service staff overseas and their state department colleagues in Washington respond to provide guidance and assistance.

Foreign Service staff are trained and well-practiced in this complex work. They routinely work in dangerous conditions despite personal risk to help those who depend on them.

My Foreign Service colleagues are proud to serve their country. This global pandemic struck at a time when the organization was already overstretched and understaffed. This crisis underscores how strong support is essential to effectively protect U.S. citizens and American interests abroad.

James Knight

Tellico Village

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