A Muslim American soldier battles on friendly ground.
'In his 23 months in the Army, Klawonn has consistently earned among the highest physical training scores in his unit. He's at the top in weapons qualifications and is the only one in his battalion to be invited to try out for the Special Forces. But the thing that stands out most, says Capt. Christopher Arata, his commander, is Klawonn's impossibly clean record. Not one reprimand. Never even late to a morning formation.'
'You watch your words and actions, censoring anything that could be interpreted as anger. You do so even as you try to ignore the names piled on you. Sand monkey. Carpet jockey. Raghead. Zachari bin Laden. Nidal Klawonn. But the hardest to shake off -- the name that cuts deepest, especially for a man who defied his family and community to become a U.S. soldier -- is this one: Terrorist. "To be looked upon by the people you serve with, by people you've trusted your life with, as the enemy," Klawonn says, sitting in his barracks a month after receiving the note. His voice trails off as he struggles to describe the anger he feels. "It's not right."
'Within 72 hours of the [Fort Hood] rampage, reports of discrimination against Muslims increased by 20 percent, according to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation
, a watchdog group. "There were soldiers calling in crying on the phone," founder Mikey Weinstein said. "They were hearing things like, 'You can't be trusted,' 'Go back to your own country.' " Within weeks, five Muslim soldiers at Fort Jackson, S.C., were accused of plotting to poison food at the base. The allegations were dropped, but the five were still discharged from active duty.'
The worst humiliation came during a field exercise at the culmination of boot camp. "Not only did I not get this final, ultimate training they said was so important," he said, "all I got to do was be a terrorist, all day long. Unit after unit."
'Klawonn's current roommate, Spec. Arnold Mendez, said: "The crazy part about all of this is, he's probably the best soldier we got. I've seen him run a marathon while fasting. I mean, that kind of commitment and smarts.'
When he's alone, however, Klawonn says his world sometimes feels as though it's collapsing.