J. Matthew Landis: Don’t thank me for my service; serve with me and defend DACA | TribLIVE.com
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J. Matthew Landis: Don’t thank me for my service; serve with me and defend DACA

In September 2017, supporters of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protest in San Francisco.

I proudly served my country for 10 years in the Army, first with the field artillery and later as a helicopter pilot, serving two tours in Iraq. I come from a family with a long military history, and I am proud to have put my life on the line to defend the principles we as Americans all hold dear.

When I look at the way this country is treating immigrants, I worry we are losing the things that I believe define us as Americans.

How best to fix our broken immigration system is a complicated issue, but some aspects of our immigration policy are absolute no-brainers, such as how to resolve the situation facing the “Dreamers.”

The Dreamers are a group of immigrants who were brought here as children by their parents in search of a better life in the greatest country in the world. These kids had no idea they were breaking any rules, and for most of them, America is the only country they’ve ever known. Since 2012, they have been protected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), but the Trump administration is seeking to cancel the program and upend the lives of tens of thousands of innocent people.

The Dreamers have grown up here. They love this country, and they just want to continue to build their lives in peace. With oral arguments beginning this week, the Supreme Court will soon decide whether the Trump administration will be allowed to terminate DACA, and if it is permitted to do so, we will lose a little bit more of what makes us Americans.

I have always felt a calling to serve, and I have continued my dedication to service even after my military career ended. When I left the military, I initially felt aimless, and it was only through service to my community that I began to feel like myself again. I often say that “service is medicine,” and I’ve needed a lot of medicine as I’ve watched my country turn its back on the ideals my brothers and sisters in arms risked our lives for.

The case of the Dreamers isn’t a political issue; it’s a moral one. It speaks directly to who we are as a nation — a nation that throughout its history has strived to be a “city upon a hill,” a shining beacon of freedom and an example to the rest of the world. If we allow the Dreamers’ lives to be destroyed to score cheap political points, that light will be further dimmed, and, I fear, extinguished for good.

We cannot in good conscience look away from this. I firmly believe that the strong have a moral obligation to protect those who are vulnerable. This has been a guiding principle for me throughout my life, and it is the reason why I feel compelled to stand up on behalf of the Dreamers.

A friend and fellow veteran who helped me find my way back to service after my military career ended once told me something that has stuck with me. He said “freedom requires courage,” and I could not agree more.

Courage can take many forms, and you don’t have to put yourselves on the front lines of the battlefield to be courageous and defend the ideals that have made America what it is. It takes courage to serve your community, to stand up for your friends and neighbors, and I believe this is a duty that we all share as Americans.

It is up to us to defend the principles that define us as Americans. If we don’t protect the Dreamers, it will be a stain on the very soul of the nation, a further dimming of the light that unites and guides us as Americans.

Greatness is earned. If we are to be “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” we must earn it, over and over again. We must defend the Dreamers.

J. Matthew Landis, a former Army helicopter pilot and Iraq War veteran, is a research engineer with the University of Pittsburgh’s Human Engineering Research Lab and a commissioner on the Pittsburgh Commission for Human Relations.

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