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Local AVF Advocates For Deported Veterans
Exile AVF
American Veterans First founder Duke Cooper of Oakdale recently visited veterans that were deported to Mexico and is shown at a wall honoring the veterans that have died while in exile there. Photo Contributed

American Veterans First has a new mission: to bring veterans that were deported to Mexico back to the country they fought for. A meeting was held this past Sunday at AVF headquarters in Riverbank to rally support for this humanitarian cause that CEO Duke Cooper called “Operation Forgotten Valor.”

“We have 28 veterans in Juarez from Mexico that came to the United States, joined the military and they were given a promise that when they were done with their service, they would get citizenship,” stated Cooper, who lives in Oakdale. “They paid them back by deporting them and not allowing them to come back to the U.S. even for medical care by the VA.”

Several politicians were invited but only a few representatives showed up along with some interested parties including Riverbank City Councilmember Luis Uribe and Tim Robertson, a candidate for State Senate.

Uribe noted that the meeting was very well attended and he “fully supports bringing the veterans back and correcting the issue.”

“I wanted to learn more about Operation Forgotten Valor, honorably discharged green card veterans, and hear directly from these men who were deported for minor offenses,” added Uribe about attending the meeting on Sunday.

Former AVF board member Rudy Molina is in El Paso, Texas and shared the stories of the deported veterans with Cooper. This led to a humanitarian mission recently for AVF volunteers to take some supplies, food, and clothing to these veterans in need in Juarez, Mexico.

Cooper flew to El Paso and a couple days later AVF Executive Secretary Paige McLaughlin and Director of Veterans Outreach Shirley Serato arrived in the organization’s van loaded with the supplies.

“The situation is not black and white,” expressed Cooper. “This is an emergency. They deserve a humanitarian pardon. Our goal is to bring them back to the U.S. and have the government fulfill their promise and make these men citizens.”

During the weekend meeting, guests were shown video of an interview with ‘Jerry’, a U.S. Navy veteran that was deported in 1994 for possession of a marijuana joint. Jerry is living in a homeless shelter in Mexico; his right leg has been amputated below the knee, he is partially paralyzed, and he is diabetic. He has not received any medical care and would like to return to his family in El Paso, Texas.

Another U.S. Marine Corps veteran was deported six years ago and is in fear for his life, as he explains having been beaten for refusing to work for a criminal outlet.

The guests also spoke with a decorated border patrol agent that was terminated and is going to be deported.

“I’d like to see the Biden administration do the right thing and bring these veterans back so they can receive proper care and the benefits they deserve,” remarked Uribe. “This may take a local and State effort to raise awareness so I will be bringing forward a resolution in support of this cause and will share it regionally if it passes unanimously at the (Riverbank) City Council level.”

The discussion on Sunday led to some ideas like grant requests for financial aid for the cause, a letter campaign to Congress, and connecting with immigration lawyers.

AVF is a nonprofit organization and they are in need of volunteers as they continue to grow and expand programs.

For those interested email or visit the website at, call 209-652-7627 or stop by 6436 Oakdale Road in Riverbank.

Mexico AVF
U.S. Navy veteran ‘Jerry’ is in a wheelchair and only has the use of his right arm. He was deported to Mexico many years ago and needs medical care; a team of representatives from American Veterans First recently made a trip to visit with the deported vets. Photo Contributed