Before last year’s presidential election, University of New Mexico student Joshua Ramirez was paying careful attention to what the candidates were saying about national security and foreign policy. He’s a third-generation soldier and a Republican. He’s already served for a year in Kuwait, and anytime through October, he could be called to duty.
KUNM caught up with Ramirez again by phone last week after Trump’s announcement that he would double-down in Afghanistan and commit 4,000 more troops to the region.
RAMIREZ: I think I’m pretty on the fence about it. If we pull out, is it really going to mean that we’re done and we’re not going to be followed by the terrorists? And if we stay in, are we still really going to be able to make a difference and actually stop future terrorist attacks from hitting the U.S. and all over the world?
KUNM: Do you could be called up again to serve?
RAMIREZ: Definitely. I think it’s a possibility, especially if anything were going to take off with North Korea at the same time. I think that the bigger the need is for the military to act and, you know, the more missions that there are depending on what’s going on in Afghanistan, there is a great chance that I will be called back to serve my country.
KUNM: Your top concern you said when we spoke before was protecting the U.S. from terrorism. Is that still at the top of your list?
RAMIREZ: Oh definitely. I think that’s something that is an ongoing fight and it’s something that we’ll probably in my lifetime never achieve, is full protection from terrorist attacks. As you can see on the news, terrorists are finding new and different ways of, you know, inflicting terror upon people, upon citizens of the Earth.
KUNM: Do you have a hard time personally reconciling any of the things that have happened in our time in Afghanistan—we’ve been there 16 years—with your own military service?
RAMIREZ: Right. I think a lot of that is just, it’s not black-and-white. You know, normally whenever we fight or serve another country or we’re fighting against another military group, they wear uniforms just like we do, and they have a sign or a symbol that shows, ‘Hey, I’m part of the opposition. I am part of the enemy, and I’m here to fight.’ And the issue with fighting in the Middle East—Afghanistan or Iraq—is that you have a lot of these terrorist groups that hide amongst innocent people. They hide in hospitals and in schools and in temples. And so, I feel that, yeah, we’ve been there for 16 years, but it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack every single time that we’re trying to find our enemy and defeat them.
KUNM: So foreign policy is something you keep tabs on, and you mentioned North Korea before. How do you think President Trump handled tensions with North Korea so far? And how does that affect you?
RAMIREZ: He definitely has spoken from a lot of emotion, instead of being calm, cool and collected. And I think that less is more. And President Trump is definitely a 'more' kind of guy, which makes people, in my opinion, think less of him. And when you say a whole lot, eventually, you have to back that up. That’s what concerns me, is the fact that there are a lot of threats going back toward North Korea about what they’re doing and how President Trump plans to react to North Korea, and eventually, that bill’s going to come, and he’s going to have to pay. And unfortunately, it’s going to be with military action.
KUNM: Has the shifting political landscape here in the U.S. affected your decisions about what you’re going to do next, whether you’re going to continue in your military career, or whether you’re going to look for something else?
RAMIREZ: They’ve definitely have been keeping tabs on me, keeping in touch with me, with me being in active ready-reserve. I do receive calls and emails periodically asking me if I would consider National Guard or Reserves. And my answer has been no. It’s still no. And I just graduated from the University of New Mexico this past spring, so my life is just starting in my opinion, and I definitely don’t see myself going back into the military.