I joined the U.S. Army in 1998 because I could not make it in college, and I had my heart broken. My first full day of basic training, we were asked why we joined the Army. I gave my answer, along with all the other trainees. Our drill sergeant told us we were all wrong, and the correct answer was, "Because I love my country." I knew he was correct.
I am a patriot. I love our country. I believe in my oath to defend the Constitution against enemies both foreign and domestic. I swore I would give my life for our country and served honorably for seven years.
I was kicked out off the Army in 2005 under “don't ask, don't tell” because someone wrote an anonymous letter outing me to my chain of command. My command supported me throughout the process, and even cried and wrote letters on my behalf.
I did not know what to do after I was kicked out. I wanted to keep serving my country with the military, even if they did not want me. It was about duty, honor and selfless service, and my belief that the country is more important than I am.
After I got out, I tried local law enforcement, but it was not a good fit. I was recruited by a contract company to go to Iraq and augment a military intelligence mission. I jumped at the opportunity to go. I was desperate to be back in the military, in whatever fashion I could serve. My brother and sisters in arms were fighting for our country and each other. I desperately wanted to help and make a difference.
While I was in Iraq during my first two-year tour, I was shot while on patrol. My family was less than thrilled when I announced I was going back a second time—this time attached to the Marine Corps. During my second tour, my vehicle was hit with an IED, killing or injuring all personnel in the vehicle. I was blessed to only receive minor shrapnel wounds, a traumatic brain injury and an awesome case of PTSD.
I tell you this because I feel it is important to know where I have been to understand where I am now.
I fought for this country. I did what I thought was right to protect my comrades-in-arms and to make our country a safer place. I wept when soldiers died. I mourned when the Iraqis I worked with gave their lives to make their country better. I fasted during Ramadan—I am not Muslim—out of respect for my hosts. My interpreters welcomed me to their evening meals and to be a part of their community. They were my friends.
My friends who extended their gracious hospitality, fed me, invited me to spend time with their families and taught me are now refugees and may be banned from coming into our country. They opened their arms to me, and now I cannot return the favor. They save countless U.S. service members’ lives, and this administration wants to turn our country's back on them.
I fought, defended and believe in freedom of oppression. I fought for the ideals and core values of the United States and her Constitution. Now, today, I am a broken person. This is not what I fought for! I did not fight for refugees to be turned away or detained at our border. I did not fight for Muslims to become second-class citizens. I did not fight for anyone's inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to be withheld.
I am a patriot who shed blood for my country. I am a veteran who will continue to fight for what is right and good about our county. I am sorry to all of those who were or, if the courts uphold them, may be affected by these atrocious executive orders. Please know that what is happening right now is not why I and others served.