Millennials of the Year 2015: The White Helmets of Syria

The brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad has gassed, starved, tortured, and slaughtered the Syrian people. And the international community’s response has been shamefully inadequate. But there are some people who have displayed courage and character in the face of these mass atrocities. Our 2015 Millennials of the Year are the millennial volunteers of the Syrian Civil Defense, the White Helmets.

Not all of the White Helmets are millennials, but a large number are young people who risk life and limb to pull people from the rubble of their homes, marketplaces, schools, and more. If Assad, ISIS, and other vicious mass murderers show the depths of the human capacity for evil, the White Helmets show the human person’s extraordinary capacity for good.

In a place where dictators fan the flames of sectarianism to keep their grip on power and terrorists kill in the name of a vile sectarian agenda, the White Helmets reject sectarianism entirely and pledge to save the lives of everyone they encounter, regardless of their background or creed. In a climate where the degradation and dehumanization of the person is constant, they show the power of solidarity and a commitment to the dignity of each person.

They have saved over 40,000 lives. The impact reverberates far beyond these lives, however. The mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, wives, husbands, friends, and colleagues of those who have been saved will be eternally grateful for their heroism. The loss of each of these lives would have ripped irreparable holes in the lives of these families and communities. Far too many Syrians have already experienced this loss and devastation. But the White Helmets have saved many from heartbreak.

They are teachers, students, carpenters, construction workers, bakers, and more. They are men and women. They are volunteers. They are rescuers. They are heroes. For their devotion to human dignity and the common good, they are our 2015 Millennials of the Year.