I am a Veteran and I’m Concerned
When I was seventeen years old I enlisted in the military, in my case the branch I selected was the Navy. On the day that I enlisted, like many people who enlist, I did not necessarily understand the gravity of taking such a step; or the depth of making such a decision at an age when officially I could not even vote.
"I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."
These simple words, spoken by everyone who ever enlisted in the US Military, are the last words they ever say as they leave the civilian world. These simple words are the first step towards making a young man or woman a protector of the freedoms and the rights of all Americans.
Every member of the enlisted ranks spends the first few weeks of basic training being worn down, mentally, physically, and emotionally. Then the next several weeks being built back up. They are trained, they are honed, and they are made to feel like they are indestructible. Some fall by the side, some flounder, but the ones that make it through feel like they can accomplish everything that is put in front of them. This is done for many reasons, but the most important one is, no matter what you do in the military, you will at some point be put in harm’s way. And you do this with the understanding that you are protecting the American way of life, even those you may not agree with.
I was stationed on a ship for 3 years. The USS Knox, now since decommissioned, and finally sank for a weapons testing target. A military vessel can best be described as one of the most dangerous factories in the world, and you not only work there, but you also live in it. You eat, drink, shower, and sleep right in the middle of a living factory in which you work. Your shifts are 8 – 20 hours a day, and if you are out at sea, you get no days off, and there are no holidays. And if something goes wrong, there is nowhere to run, and it is up to you and your shipmates to fix it. You relied on those around you, no matter where they came from, how they looked, or what religion they followed.
What is it like to be in the military? If you have ever been part of a team, a club, or a civic group? Now imagine living with those people 24 hours a day for weeks or months on end, and then add the possibility of death, and you are getting close.
One of the fundamental governances of the military is that of respect. Respect of all people. No matter what their race, their religion, or their gender. You are taught to respect, protect, and defend everyone equally. Notice I said EVERYONE, and not just people who look like me, think like me, or act like me.
Why am I am concerned on this Veterans Day? It is not why you think. It doesn’t matter who ran for president, or who was elected president, or even if you or I agree with anything they have to say or not. I could not care less who you voted for.
What I do care about is over the last week I have seen a number of veterans voicing some hateful speech against other Americans. Attacking their race, their religion, their country of origin, or their sexual persuasion. If you are a veteran, and you have been doing this, you should be ashamed of yourself. When you joined the military, you took an oath just like I did, to protect others against enemies, both foreign and domestic. When you left the military, at no point did you take an oath to stop doing this.
If you feel this last week has given you some kind of green light to attack those around you instead of protecting them, or defending them from others who are, you might just want to stop referring to yourself as a Veteran. If you have been displaying, or supporting this kind of behavior, in my mind, you have abandoned all of your core values, and have given up your right to be called a US Veteran.