Abraham Mashal - Class of 1998

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Abraham Mashal - Class of 1998

Abe Mashal, the second of three sons born to his Palestinian dad and Chicago Italian mom, was raised in New Jersey and West Chicago as a proud Muslim with a strong sense of justice. At Turner School, West Chicago Junior High and West Chicago Community High School he found supportive teachers who encouraged him to work through obstacles and reach for his goals.

In the United States Marine Corps he discovered the motto for his life’s work: Honor, Courage, Commitment. Using the K-9 handling skills acquired while serving on active duty, Mashal gained the expertise and business acumen to start Always Faithful Dog Training, which today includes 19 thriving franchises across 14 states. He also co-founded and operated for four years Always Faithful Service Dogs, a non-profit charitable organization providing therapy and service dogs to disabled veterans.

All came to a screeching halt in 2010 when he was denied passage on a routine flight out of Midway Airport to a client in Spokane, Washington. Corporal Mashal was on the No Fly List. Suddenly he was surrounded by more than thirty Chicago Police officers and TSA agents. His stunned expression was reflected on their faces as they noticed his Marine Corps shirt. They escorted him to a private room for questioning, then told him he could call his wife and return home.

“I was shocked. I wanted answers. There must be some mistake. How did I end up on the No Fly List? How could this happen? When can I fly again?” — Abe Mashal

Barely fifteen minutes after arriving home to his wife and four little children, Mashal’s phone rang. Two FBI agents were on their way to his house. That’s when the real interrogation began: “Who is your mother? Who is your father? What’s your religion?” His mom is Catholic, Abe and his dad are Muslim. Agents wanted to know if he communicated with Muslims outside the United States and the number of bank accounts he had.

Officials were leapfrogging over my rights as a US citizen, rights I defended when I served this country as a Marine.” — Abe Mashal

There was no way to find out why, to appeal or remedy his situation. A few months later the FBI asked Mashal to meet them for lunch at the Embassy Suites in Schaumburg, Illinois. Instead of lunch they offered to remove him from the No Fly List if he would agree to be an undercover informant at mosques. This was a breaking point for Abe. He had a wife, four young children and a growing business. He was no James Bond. And, he hadn’t done anything wrong in the first place. As a Marine Corps veteran he knew his Constitutional rights; Abe Mashal called the American Civil Liberties Union.

Mashal became lead spokesperson for a case representing thirteen US citizens and permanent legal residents. Four years of his written and recorded testimony followed as the case made its way through the courts, and for four long years Abe had to limit his business calls and family plans to places within driving range of his home in St. Charles, Illinois.

Finally on October 10, 2014 the 9th Circuit Federal Court in Portland, Oregon declared the government’s system for people to challenge their inclusions on the No Fly List unconstitutional and a violation of the 5th Amendment’s guarantee of due process. Abe Mashal and six others were removed from the No Fly List, and the government was ordered to notify all plaintiffs of their No Fly List status, give reasons to those still on the No Fly List, and provide opportunity for challenges to those reasons.

Mashal exercised his hard won freedom and booked a flight with his thirteen year old son to New York City. They personally thanked the attorneys who won the case, and then visited the Statue of Liberty to reflect upon the values for which this country stands. Abe Mashal had been presumed guilty until proven innocent. He still doesn’t know why he was placed on the No Fly List and wonders how many other innocent people may have been similarly blacklisted. The ACLU states that for now at least the secrecy around the No Fly List is beginning to crumble.

“Over and over again, Mr. Mashal spoke movingly and eloquently about the need to uphold our Constitution’s guarantees of fairness and due process. His efforts were invaluable in educating the press and the public. Throughout the years Mr. Mashal never wavered in his commitment to fight for his own rights and those of his fellow Americans.”

— Hina Shamsi, Director, National Security Project American Civil Liberties Union Foundation

Abe Mashal credits his parents, his Marine Corps training, his faith, key teachers and staff like Bob Lemon, Chuck Osborne, Butch Hansen, Tony Quarto, Miguel Arroyo, John Highland, and above all his wife, Jessica Whitaker Mashal, for giving him the courage and confidence to defend the rights guaranteed by our Constitution.

At West Chicago Community High School Abe joined the wrestling team and worked after school and weekends at Sonny Acres Farm. He was impressed by his civic classes and the high school’s government simulation program. In his first year at College of DuPage he studied criminal justice and then joined the Marines, where in the rank of Corporal he served as Supply Chief, Marksmanship Instructor, K-9 Trainer, and Platoon Sergeant.

Today every one of the franchises Abe Mashal started is a success. Mashal now flies across the country to manage and serve his Aways Faithful Dog Training clients, and he attends out-of-state family events on distant shores. But, he is also aware that at any moment he could be denied a boarding pass.

West Chicago Community High School and the CHS Educational Foundation are proud to honor Abraham Mashal, class of 1998, with the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award for Justice.