The Brownsville Herald, Texas
Marine veteran Ramon Castro arrived in Brownsville on Wednesday to mark the end of his 45-day border walk from San Diego to protest veteran deportations in the United States.
Castro, who is from Brawley, California, started his journey at Playas de Tijuana and finished it at Boca Chica Beach along with other veterans who tagged along to support the cause. He said he found out about deported veterans in December 2019 and thought it was a joke.
The first deported veteran that Castro met passed away in Mexico months ago and since then he knew he had to do something about it.
“He passed away this past May, so when he passed away we had to deliver a flag. We had a flag ceremony, another veteran and myself, and we delivered that flag to the family,” he said.
“An American flag for an American Marine on foreign soil, which we thought was very shameful.”
Castro started to think on ways in which they could bring more awareness to this issue not only for politicians so they can fix the issue but also for the community. Since every year for the past few years he has been part of the group that organizes walks for Memorial Day in his hometown, he knew this was the way to go.
“If I didn’t know about it, and this has been happening for 25 years, I could only imagine the rest of the nation,” he said.
“And I live right at the border myself and I still didn’t know. So, we knew that it was important to do something major to bring awareness to this issue and to press the government to do what was right.”
Castro ended his journey on Wednesday, which happens to be his birthday. He said even though it wasn’t planned, he doesn’t believe in coincidences and sees this as a sign to continue advocating for veterans for the rest of his life.
In Brownsville, he was joined by other veterans who flew from places such as Brawley, San Diego, El Paso and Brownsville.
“I’ll never forget this day, I’ll never forget this birthday,” he said.
“I hope that this day signifies the beginning of a strong movement. To fix what is wrong with our veteran community and it’s not just that veterans are being deported, veterans are being neglected across the border. Especially, as we age we have suicide rates on average of 22 a day, we have an increasing homeless veteran population, mental and physical illness are very common. … We have a lot to accomplish still. This is just the beginning.”
Miguel Altamirano, a Marine veteran from Brownsville, said he decided to join the walk because as an immigrant himself he could have been part of the statistics of deported veterans. An immigrant from Mexico who arrived in Brownsville at only 6 years old, Altamirano said deporting veterans has to stop.
“All we want is for light to be shed on this so that there are no deportations of honorably discharged veterans,” he said. “And that they, just like U.S. citizens, have the opportunity to make a comeback.”
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