Officials deported an elderly U.S. military veteran from his childhood home in California . He had served for 12 years in Vietnam .
"I feel they did me wrong because I risked my life for Uncle Sam just so, at the end, I get deported," seventy-two-year-old Private First Class Andres De Leon said, Fox News reports.
Authorities arrested and eventually forced De Leon to leave the U.S. after he sought refuge in drugs from a grief-induced depression.
De Leon’s sister, Elizabeth, explains he developed an addiction to heroin after their mother passed away.
“He would take my mom everywhere. When my mom passed away, that really pushed him to the edge," she said.
After serving three years in prison for drug possession, an immigration judge deported De Leon to Mexico - a country he hadn’t visited in 50 years.
With no friends or family there, he arrived in Mexico initially homeless before finding a home in a poor area, worrying his family members back in the U.S., especially given De Leon’s health problems.
"It worries me very much that something might happen to my brother. I’m going to be torn apart,” Elizabeth said.
De Leon eventually befriended other U.S. veterans like Hector Barajas, who was also deported.
In 2013, Barajas opened up Deported Veterans Support House, a fundraiser that relies mainly on donations to help U.S. veterans deported to Tijuana, Mexico.
Barajas believes there must be hundreds - if not thousands - of people like De Leon and himself out there.
His support house website states that they’ve met more than 100 veterans who have been deported to more than 30 countries, despite legal residency status and serving in wars ranging from Vietnam to Iraq.
Bajaras and De Leon accept they may never see the U.S. again.
Indeed, death may be the only way these veterans will be allowed back on U.S. soil.
“Why would they honor us only when we die? They’re going to give an American flag to our families and say, 'Thank you for your service to your country,'" Barajas said. "If you want to honor our men, let them get their treatment. Let them live with their families.”