January 30, 2017


When Muslims got blocked at American airports, U.S. veterans rushed to help (Matt Pearce and Shashank Bengali, Jan. 29th, 2017, LA Times)

Jeffrey Buchalter was reflooring his foyer in Chesapeake Beach, Md., and listening to MSNBC over the weekend when he heard the news: An Iraqi who had worked with American forces as an interpreter had been stopped from entering the U.S. under a new executive order on immigration from President Trump.

The story stopped him cold. Buchalter, an Army veteran who works as a law-enforcement instructor at the Department of Homeland Security, had served multiple tours of duty as a military policeman in Iraq, service that cost him dearly.

He was decorated for injuries sustained from gunfire and improvised explosive devices. Exams revealed he'd suffered herniated discs, traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, and he spent 2 ½ years at Walter Reed Army Medical Center trying to get right.

But he was still alive, and now the married father of two children. And he believes that's thanks in part to the work of Iraqi interpreters who acted as guides during his work in their country. So he told his younger daughter and son they were going to take a trip: a two-hour drive to Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., where, for the first time in his life, Buchalter would join a protest.

"This is not what we fought for, having been in Iraq and working with these interpreters," Buchalter said in a phone interview Sunday. When he saw an Iraqi family emerge from detention, he presented them with something he hoped would convey America's goodwill -- a Purple Heart.

"Knowing their culture and how they view America, for me, it was a way to send a message to them: What they believe America was, it is," Buchalter said. "It's the greatest place in the world."

Trump's executive order Friday to block travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations triggered confusion, fear and anger around the nation as protesters and attorneys gathered at airports to try to force the release of at least dozens of travelers who had unexpectedly become detainees. Many of America's veterans were among those frustrated by the order, inspired largely by the story of Iraqi interpreter Hameed Khalid Darweesh.

Posted by at January 30, 2017 4:34 AM


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