By Travis Raymond
I served my country and its president for five years in the army, but had never laid eyes on the commander-in-chief in person. When I learned that President Obama would be coming to Cleveland State, I obtained a ticket to see him.
The line to hear the President speak stretched for more blocks than I could see, and I had an impending class that I was unwilling to miss. So after being told I couldn’t stand atop the parking garage at East 17th and Chester, I joined a small group of students and perhaps one professor on top of the central garage. I was there about two minutes when I saw secret service agents walking directly toward us. I pulled my driver’s license and student identification cards from my wallet. I knew what was coming.
After verifying my service record, one of the agents asked, “Are you feeling okay? Are you angry about anything?”
A few things flashed through my mind: substandard VA medical care, poor PTSD screening, military contractors, and Guantanamo Bay remaining open. But I began to perceive that I was talking myself either into or out of a waterboarding. I remembered that brevity is the soul of wit.
Agent: Do you have any weapons on you?
Me: No, just a hairbrush.
Agent: Is the hairbrush a weapon? Does it fold out into a knife or something?
Fortunately this was said in jest, and his partner laughed.
Agent: So you’re out here wanting to see the President?
Me: Yes, I have a ticket to the event. I just haven’t gone in.
Agent: Well, you can go in if you want to, but you can’t stand up here at an elevated position. You were in the army, you know how that works.
I agreed with him, if only to get my two forms of identification back and get away from them. I am, in fact, no stranger to security cordons. I set up and patrolled quite a few of my own. I am, however, unaccustomed to the harassment of friendlies inside the security perimeter.
By the agent’s logic, students could not stand looking out the windows facing the field where the President would be speaking. And by that logic, I was hesitant to look out any window, as I was sure that all the snipers on overwatch had been advised of my presence, and had plenty of time to notice me.