On Monday, March 2nd, I cast my vote for the first time. This milestone comes after 16 years since my deportation as a veteran of the United States. This I know will not save me or my people, but it is a step I know not a lot of people with my past or circumstances ever have the opportunity to take. I truly hope that changes.

The opportunity to vote is not just a privilege but a responsibility. Some Americans who are born with this privilege never exercise it. I at one point served the U.S. military — less than 10 percent of the country chooses to do. I was willing to die for a country even if laws didn't apply to me or if the Constitution didn't fully protect me. But I am here with you, trying again because like my return home, it is all a community effort.

I'll be honest: I've found myself struggling with things like homelessness, suicidal thoughts and addiction. As I continue to learn about myself, change things in my life, I keep finding out I know nothing. Each day is an opportunity to learn from our struggles, be it self-inflicted or be it life's circumstances.

But each day is a reminder who and what community is. I've decided to continue my work for the Deported Veterans Support House as long as it takes. Especially with our recent acquisition of the 2.4 acres of land in Mexico, which would help our services at the border exponentially. We will always need supporters, allies and volunteers.

Most importantly, I've decided to make it a lifelong commitment to try and build stronger relationships with my family. The border separated me from drives to school and nightly dinners among many other precious memories with my daughter. Now that I'm home, she is my priority.

My congresspeople, my president won't be perfect. But I will demand that they stand for bringing our deported veterans home and I hope you join me. Our deported veterans are as American as any American-born citizen. I dare say, they have gone above and beyond by service. We are no less American because of our imperfections.

Airborne All the Way.

Spc Hector Barajas 82nd ABN veteran, deported in 2004 and repatriated as a U.S. Citizen in 2018