Hector Barajas is a deported U.S. military veteran, but he still wears the pieces of the uniform that once defined him.
Barajas enlisted when he was just 18, serving nearly six years. He’s a former paratrooper who was born in Zacatecas state, crossed illegally into the United States at age 7 and served in the Army from 1995 to 2001.
"I’m considered a war time veteran because of my service during 9/11," he said.
During his time served, he believed he was as American as anyone else in uniform. But he quickly learned that wasn’t the case when he was arrested and convicted in 2004 for shooting at an occupied home or vehicle. The incident happened in Compton -- his hometown since he was 7.
Although he served more than one year in prison for the shooting, he has always denied he was the one who pulled the trigger.
"I don't think my mistakes make me less American. If anything, the fact that I served for my country, that I was willing to die for, that should make me, it makes me more of American. Unfortunately I need a little piece of paper and somebody to sign the dotted line,” Barajas said.
In 2013, Barajas established what was then called the "Banished Veterans" group. The group helps deportees adjust to life in Mexico and has advocated to allow deported veterans to return to the U.S.
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In the last four years, he’s established a headquarters in Tijuana, Mexico, changed the name to the "Deported Veterans Support House" and garnered the support of Congressional leaders, the ACLU and California Gov. Jerry Brown.
One of things Brown pointed out in the official pardon is the work Barajas is doing in Mexico for other deported veterans.
"I'm very humbled," Barajas said in a video he posted on his Facebook page. "There are days when I feel like giving up, but it's because of things like these ... that I still believe, that I still have faith that eventually we will go home."
He hopes his pardon will lead to a re-instatement of his green card so he can then apply for citizenship.
But it's not a guarantee. Barajas says he submitted a new application for naturalization more than a year ago.
"Who knows, I might become an American citizen in a couple weeks, maybe a year. We have to fight for it," Barajas said.
He added that he believes returning to the U.S. is a possibility.
"We're not gonna give up if they say no."
But either way, he said his job with deported veterans will not end.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.