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Veterans Bill Staton, Jim Dixon and Manuel Dotson are unhappy with President Donald Trump’s travel ban. Dixon said their main concern is an increased safety risk for military personnel around the world, especially in the Middle East.

A small group of Roanoke veterans is organizing to challenge some of President Donald Trump’s policy decisions that they say could increase the risk for American military abroad.

In particular, they pointed to Trump’s executive order temporarily banning admission to the United States of travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations and suspending admission of refugees from Syria indefinitely.

Jim Dixon, a retired major in the Virginia National Guard member and Gulf War veteran, called the policy “hasty, ill-conceived and unvetted.”

“Not only do terrorist groups, including ISIS, gain propaganda value, increase the likelihood of attacks on service members,” Dixon said, the order “has also corroded trust with our allies in the region.”

Dixon and Bill Staton, another retired guard member and Gulf War vet, said the ban, coupled with the detention of Muslim families, including an Iraqi interpreter, at U.S. airports last weekend and Trump’s continued allusions to taking Iraq’s oil, all contribute to their concerns.

The two spoke at the War Memorial in Roanoke’s Lee Plaza, where they announced launch of Veterans Protecting Freedom. They describe the group’s mission as holding the president and Congress accountable for upholding their oaths to protect the Constitution. Another Vietnam War era veteran, Manuel Dotson, joined them. All three are self-described Democrats, but said their perspective in this case comes from their military service and isn’t partisan.

Dixon and Staton said they had come from the office of Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke County, where they spoke with his legislative aide about Goodlatte’s support for Trump’s policies, and also seeking common ground.

For more information, find the group Veterans Protecting Freedom on Facebook.

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Matt Chittum covers Roanoke City. A Roanoke native, he’s been at the Roanoke Times for more than two decades, having overcome an inauspicious start with a part-time clerical job.

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