Vets Respond to Comfort Frightened Muslim Child

December 27, 2015

By Eric March

Editor’s note: In many ways these are dark days. Climate change threatens us all; there are armed conflicts in many places; U.S. presidential politics have hit a new low; we are facing many threats: environmental, racial, gun violence, civil liberties and more. Yet there is an exciting spirit moving under the surface in today’s world. Thus far, it remains mostly under the radar, but every now and then it shows itself. This article reveals one example. Happy holidays to you and yours from the PeaceWorker staff.

When Melissa Chance Yassini came home from work on Dec. 8, she found her daughter Sofia in tears.

Sofia had been watching the news with her grandmother, when she heard about Donald Trump’s call to deport refugees and ban Muslims from entering America.

“She ran to me with a look of absolute fear on her face,” Melissa told Upworthy. Sofia, who is 8 years old, was convinced that Trump wanted to kick her and her family, who are Muslim — and American citizens — out of the country. “It was the first time that it really drove home to me that we’re in a dangerous place right now,” Melissa said.
Melissa Chance Yassini and her daughter Sofia. Photo by Melissa Chance Yassini/Facebook. Used with permission.

Melissa stayed up most of the night comforting and reassuring her daughter. Exhausted and frustrated, she posted about the experience on Facebook the next day.

The post caught the eye of Kerri Peek, an Army veteran from Colorado, who responded to Melissa a few days later.

“Salamalakum Melissa!” Peek wrote on Facebook. “Please show this picture of me to your daughter. Tell her I am a Mama too and as a soldier I will protect her from the bad guys.”
Photo by Kerri Peek/Facebook. Used with permission.

Peek — who is Hispanic — told Upworthy that her heart broke reading Melissa’s post, which reminded her of similar statements that have made her own family feel unwelcome.

“It bothered me all night. Stuck in my craw, so to speak,” Peek said. “This rhetoric and fear, hate, and violence is not okay. It’s not the United States that I would fight for. I was awake all night.”

Peek started a hashtag — #IWillProtectYou — and encouraged her fellow vets to respond. The messages of support began pouring in.

“Calling all vets. I’ve been reading reports of kids being harassed and accosted because of their faith. This is UNAMERICAN. Now is the time to act,” veteran Andres Herrera wrote on Facebook.
Andres Herrera. Used with permission.
“Let Muslim children know that we will not hurt them. That they are safe here in America. That we will protect innocents as we always have and by added benefit keeping our oaths to uphold and defend the Constitution,” Herrera added.

“I am not Muslim,” veteran David Bruce wrote on Facebook, “But when anyone says the Army that I served with will go on to remove Muslims from my country, they’ll have to take me too.”

Photo by David Bruce/Facebook. Used with permission (on the contingency that I mention Bruce said, “I thought photo filters would hide how messed up my gear looks. They didn’t. Oh well.”)

“Sweet girl, I am no longer in the Navy, but know you are protected,” veteran Sarah Cullen wrote. “‪#‎IWillProtectYou‬ to the moon and back if necessary. Many hugs sent your way.”

Photo by Sarah Cullen/Facebook. Used with permission.

“We are Muslim, an Army family, and we will protect you,” Aneesah Hydar wrote on Facebook.

Photo by Aneesah Hydar/Facebook. Used with permission.

As the responses continue to come in, Peek remains blown away — but not surprised — by her fellow vets’ willingness to stand up to bigotry.

“I have always been proud of my Battle Buddies (we are all comrades-at-arms),” Peek said. “But this is outstanding.”

Melissa told Upworthy she is incredibly moved by the show of support for her daughter.

“I have probably received close to 500 messages from various people in our military, from just people,” Melissa said. “Christians, atheists, Jews, every walk of life, every stage, have reached out to Sofia and I with overwhelming support and love.”
Photo by The U.S. Army/Flickr.

Most importantly, Sofia now knows there’s an army of her fellow Americans who have her back.

Peek’s message came through loud and clear: No matter what Donald Trump says that makes Muslim-Americans feel unsafe and unwanted, there are men and women in America’s armed forces who won’t stand for it. “I read each and every message to her,” Melissa said. “And she now understands that we’re all part of a fabric which is America.”Φ

Eric March, in his own words: Just your average red-blooded, all-American transit geek and musical theater fanatic. If you want to chat about dedicated bus rapid transit lanes or why “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” is actually a comedy song and not a ballad, join me on Facebook or Twitter. Eric’s stories appear at Upworthy. Upworthy draws attention to stories that matter.
Sensational and substantial. Entertaining and enlightening.

Tags:

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.