Recently a close friend asked me how I felt when people thank me for my military service. It was a great question and the short answer is “self-conscious”. In my first 19 years as a Marine, recognition was non-existent. In the 8 years after 9/11, I have been thanked hundreds of times; from close family and friends, to total strangers, even other veterans. From a simple handshake and kind word to public acknowledgment and on one occasion a baked ham, each one is a sincere and appreciated expression of gratitude from citizens to its soldiers in a time of war. Why then am I self-conscious of the attention? Because it reminds me how detached most of America has become from the military that protects it. Serving my country should not be noteworthy, it is my duty.
As our nation grows rapidly, our military stays relatively static in size. In WWII 1 in 12 Americans were in the military. Today, it’s less than 1 in 300. You are statistically as likely to know someone with AIDS, as you are someone serving in the military. Where once the military shared the values of the entire nation, it now is almost as vocally opposed by a large segment of society as it is warmly embraced. Through no choice of the military it is increasingly becoming “sui generis” or a “breed apart” and that is a heart-breaking thing.
Our 44th president, Barack Obama exemplifies that detachment. He is a man who appears to be sincere but completely lacking in the ability to connect with a military that already largely mistrusts him. His lack of understanding and respect of military culture was exhibited in wanting to personally issue orders to shoot the Somali pirates. He might be President but he is a boot lieutenant with nukes. By maligning, politicizing and now criminalizing the strategy and tactics of the war on Islamic fascists, he has called into question the enormous sacrifice we made as a military and nation. He is the worst kind of arm chair quarterback, one that never played the game.
A nation needs a warrior class, but not one that stands apart, or outside of the mainstream of society. We cannot choose to serve based on politics and as the Founding Fathers understood, we must never ever politicize the military. I did not swear to support and defend a political party or even the President; rather I swore to support and defend “the Constitution of the United States of America”. Until I retired in March, I served equally under each of the last five presidents whether I agreed, or disagreed with their politics.
The enemy we face today is real and not something you are going to placate with money and good intentions. These are violent and irrational Islamic fascists and they will not rest until we no longer exist as a nation, or until they are all dead. This is not an “overseas contingency operation” this is a trans-generational war for the future of our nation. We can’t govern by world consensus but must do what is best for America first, before anyone else. Quit bowing to kings, quit worrying about offending people and start worrying about having a nation to worry about.
Recently, the Department of Homeland Security issued a report that in part identified combat veterans, such as myself, as potential right wing extremists. Military critic Janet Napolitano rejected the advice of her own civil rights staff to remove that inflammatory reference before publication for a reason, she believes it. She intentionally inflamed an already divided country for ideological and political gain. As one Marine said in classic Marine-style “she can kiss my big fat jarhead ass”. Well I have something to say as well. Mr. President “We are not the enemy”. Govern for all or not at all.