Former US Army, served two tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan

Why did you decide to come out today?

Whenever I decided to join the army I was expecting that if I were to go to war, it would be something like World War II or a noble cause, not some BS like Iraq. I had to do my job and it was a pointless, endless war. And what's going on in Syria now... we've created more problems than we've fixed.

The current administration has relied on a lot of nationalism for its platform. How do you feel about that?

Playing on hate and fear, that's, in my opinion, kind of what Hitler did. Fear, hate, and the unknown. And I wouldn't even say [just] the current administration—even with Obama and Bush. I wish Trump would take his own words personally and say "America First." We're not the world's policemen and we shouldn't be. If there's homeless people here and people dying here, why are we worrying about foreign affairs? Let's take care of us before we take care of someone else.

For people who haven't served overseas or haven't had a family member serve, what would you want them to know?

I didn't agree with the war in Iraq, but I was serving my country and that's what they told me to do, so that's what I did. Yes, I am proud, but I think it was senseless, and I have a lot of friends, as a matter of fact. You might want to take a picture of this.


These are my best friends' initials. I watched them die. And for what? We didn't win the war in Iraq. I guess that's why I'm here.


Former US Army infantryman, served in Iraq

Why was it important for you to be here today?

Since Trump's been elected there's been tons of different anti-Trump protests. They've all had different themes. Women's March, Black Lives Matter, Science March, the Tax March. I've been to all of them, and being a vet, this one to me is the most important one of them. And I hope today, being May Day, all of these different groups that all have different themes but are all anti-Trump coalesce together somewhat. I'm happy to be out here with the Vets for Peace, because Trump does tons of scary stuff, but to me the scariest is that he has access to nuclear codes and the largest military in the world. I've seen the industrial military complex in person, and we need more money for vets but not more money for the military. We don't need more tanks. How about money for education, environment, the [Department of Veterans Affairs]?

And Trump's promised to give more money to the VA. What do you make of that?

He's said he wants to privatize it, which is absolute bullshit. He wants to privatize it so he can probably benefit from it somehow. I hear people say, "Oh, you want to take money away from the military, you're taking money away from the vets!" And that's not true. There's this thing called the VA. And I'm all for increasing that sliver, which is tiny, but decreasing the giant sliver, which is the military, which typically goes to companies like Raytheon, military contractors. They don't go to actual vets. That chunk goes to building airplanes, and building bombs, and this giant, bulbous war machine.

If you could say one thing to someone who's never served, or who doesn't have a family member who's served, what's one thing you would want that person to know?

People who have served are proud to have served but it doesn't mean they're pro-war. Droning and bombing, and going to Iraq—we didn't know why we were in Iraq.


Former US Army, military police in Iraq

Why was it important for you to be out here today?

I think it's important for everyone to be out here today. It's important to be out here to show solidarity with marginalized groups that need greater advocacy and a larger voice. It's important for us to be out there to show that the momentum and movement of the Women's March, the March for Science, the protests and the marches over the last six months is not a fleeting thing. It's important to show that the momentum is building and that we're going to advocate for things like fair wages, a single payer healthcare system, individual rights.

Every single soldier, when they sign up, pledges allegiance to the United States Constitution. Most people don't know that. What people also don't know is that our senators and our representatives, they don't pledge allegiance to the flag, they don't pledge allegiance to the president. They also take the same oath that soldiers swear. They pledge allegiance to protect and uphold the Constitution. And the Constitution was drafted by a bunch of white men a little over 200 years ago to represent "we the people." Now "we the people" has changed a lot, and what the Constitution meant then doesn't mean what it does today. It's a living document. It's meant to grow and it's meant to change.

We are here today as part of a growing effort to show that part of that change is that we don't look the same, we don't act the same, we don't pray the same, we don't live the same, and we don't have to be the same. We can all be different, we can all have our different particular issues and belief systems, and our own particular ideologies, but we can still be here in a social contract to support each other when we're at our lowest and when we're doing our best.

What are the issues you care the most about?

There's only three issues in this country that I think have to be resolved in the next 10 years. Global warming. The United States has to be a continuing leader in fighting climate change. Regardless of whether you think it's man-made or not—and I am 100 percent an advocate of science and facts—the globe is warming. And the Department of Defense has stated the number one threat to the United States isn't terrorism, it's global warming. And that's the DoD. Maybe our representatives should take the money out of their pockets and listen, because those guys don't exactly exaggerate.

The second issue is healthcare. The system that is in place right now does not work. That is obvious. There's a lot of anger. It helps 24 to 30 million more people than our old system did but it does not work well. That doesn't mean we keep it, it doesn't mean we get rid of it. But it means that we as a nation come together and figure out something that works. I think that looks something like a single-payer system.

What's the third issue?

The third issue is education, plain and simple. Education is messy, it's complex, it deals with states' rights even more so than healthcare. It also touches on ideology and belief systems. At the basis, though, here, is our ability as a nation, as the United States of America, to provide workers. If you listen to the top 10, 15 corporate executives talk about what they're worried about in the future, they are continuously talking about how they can't get a workforce consistently that's educated without importing people. One of the issues, supposedly, is immigration, and immigrants taking our jobs. Which is absurd. We have 500,000 working class jobs unfilled in this country. The issue is not that immigrants are taking our jobs. The issue is that our working class, and soon our white collar class, aren't trained in the jobs the business sector needs. We need a better education system.

These interviews have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.