Hello, Freedom Man

By Colin Raunig

On May 25th, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision to block President Trump’s revised travel ban. The ruling rejects the administration’s efforts to limit travel to the United States by six predominantly Muslim nations. The Supreme Court is now likely to review the case.

As a leader in Veterans for American Ideals, I was heartened by the federal appeals court’s ruling. We have raised our voices against this travel ban. It undermines our nation’s moral authority and national security, and we applaud efforts, regardless of political affiliation, that promote fairness and respect for the vulnerable.

The original executive order, issued a week after the President Trump’s inauguration, barred the entry of people from seven mostly Muslim nations (Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, and Libya) for 90 days and indefinitely banned refugees from Syria. The revised order, issued on March 6th, exempted Iraq, protected green card holders, and removed explicit references to religion. But both orders still would have dealt a blow to our nation’s refugee resettlement program, and more than that, violated the ideals of our nation.

What disturbs me most are statements like those calling for a “complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” That’s not who we are. That’s not what I fought for when I wore the uniform.

The Fourth Circuit agreed. In its 205-page ruling, the judges concluded that the revised order “speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination.”

The Trump Administration is right to think that the travel ban relates to national security. It’s wrong about the relationship. The ban does not enhance national security; it harms it.

For example, Mac McEachin, a fellow Vets for American Ideals leader and a national security policy associate at the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), explains how the ban removes the incentive for interpreters, whom the military relies on to successfully carry out its missions around the world, to serve with American troops in the future. McEachin notes, “The last thing you want to do is make people think we’ll use them when it’s politically expedient and then get rid of them when the next administration comes in.”

Pete Kiernan, a Vets for American Ideals leader and former Marine Special Operator, agrees. He noted that "an executive order effectively banning Muslims from the very nations that we are conduction special operations in shatters the trust these teams have painstakingly built.”

In all likelihood this case will be heard by the Supreme Court. My fellow veterans and I hope that we can find a way to remember who we are as a nation: one that cares deeply about our security and our freedom, but doesn’t sacrifice who we are in the name of security. I remember how inspired I was when the president spoke these words in his farewell address:

I’ve been reflecting on what the past 8 years have meant and mean. And the image that comes to mind like a refrain is a nautical one—a small story about a big ship, and a refugee, and a sailor. It was back in the early eighties, at the height of the boat people. And the sailor was hard at work on the carrier Midway, which was patrolling the South China Sea. The sailor, like most American servicemen, was young, smart, and fiercely observant. The crew spied on the horizon a leaky little boat. And crammed inside were refugees from Indochina hoping to get to America. The Midway sent a small launch to bring them to the ship and safety. As the refugees made their way through the choppy seas, one spied the sailor on deck, and stood up, and called out to him. He yelled, "Hello, American sailor. Hello, freedom man."

That was Ronald Reagan. That speech reminds me who we are as a nation, and I hope we can find that same spirit again soon.

Colin Raunig graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2007 and was a Naval Officer for eight years. He is currently a MFA student of fiction at Colorado State University, and co-leads the Vets for American Ideals Colorado team.