Lee Melvin is a former Army Ranger veteran. When the Central American migrant crisis hit, Melvin noticed that a few of his fellow veterans had become trapped in a vicious cycle, trapped in the cloud of global political and social anxiety, political confusion, and fear. Some had never been outside their own borders—much less stayed alive abroad—and as a result, they have been greatly affected by the current refugee crisis.
Veterans are now facing even greater odds and have been subjected to surveillance and unwelcome encroachment on their privacy and right to support their own families. “We’re angry as hell about this,” Melvin said in an interview with The Daily Beast, “and we feel that our democracy has been abandoned by our own government for too long.”
Coming back from Afghanistan, Melvin was shocked by the prospect of having to transition into civilian life again and grapple with the repercussions of his military service on returning soldiers. “When I came back from active duty, my wife, who was deployed for most of my deployment, said, ‘Lee, what would you do if you didn’t have your family in mind? If this country made you physically and mentally unfit for everything you’ve ever done, what would you do?’”
“I believe that I’ve seen first-hand that the U.S. Government considers any American that’s more than 60 years old to be a threat to its security. So you don’t see very many of us who are under that age, and we’re not welcomed back,” Melvin says.
“And that’s on purpose,” he continues. “They have a master plan for how to do this: make these people (all ages) undocumented; leave them destitute.”
Melvin wanted to speak up and make some change, but he admits that “I don’t know how or what to do. I’m trying to figure out a way to fight this.”
After coming back from active duty, Melvin himself was evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder and was subsequently diagnosed with major depression.
“Mental illness shouldn’t be a problem,” Melvin says. “Just get the treatment.”
Groups like Veterans for Freedom have been raising awareness about the issue, however, not only in the United States but overseas. Though they have the backing of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, a presidential commission to improve support for veterans has been stalled for nearly a year.
Despite those failures and other election-related misfortunes, Melvin remains optimistic that the resistance can — and will — come. “I’m just hopeful,” he says. “Hope is all I have.”
But until then, he has taken it upon himself to keep his fellow veterans focused.
“I’m being honest,” Melvin says. “If you tell a truth that’s not really true, there’s a very distinct possibility that people might walk away and just say, ‘there’s nothing we can do.’ And so, I think that is our best hope right now, is to tell these stories.”
Looking back at the election, Melvin says he “really just wishes there was a way, or a way for more to have been done to stop the outcome.” He believes that he and his fellow veterans have been betrayed.
“You know, people are going to keep attacking these Americans,” Melvin says. “It’s going to be very, very interesting to see who’s the president of the United States next year.”
He admits that he’s disappointed in the fact that he can’t have a public platform to fight for his country. “I kind of feel that I’m just another one of those numbers.”
But as Melvin continues to search for a way to fight for his fellow veterans, he says he will never be a silent figure. “What I’m going to do is what I believe in. It’s not going to be just for political reasons,” he says. “It’s not going to be one of those … I’m not a die-hard Democrat or a die-hard Republican. I don’t care what you call yourself. I don’t care what party you’re a part of. All I care about is how to help the veteran community.”