Marines.Together We Served

Monday, February 19, 2007

In Defense of our Defenders

I have been wrestling with writing this article for some time now, but as I watch the lunacy of talking heads parade around the media stage, I can’t help but reflect back to the same sort of behavior we were subjected to in the later years of the Vietnam War.

Let me make this statement right out of the chute: You cannot, in the same breath, be opposed to the War on Terror, and be for the troops. This is nonsense.

When a person, be they Joe America, a politician, or a media type, utters critical remarks about our war efforts, or makes disparaging comments about the president, they strike at the very core of the military. Our service men and women are intelligent people, contrary to the remarks made by certain congressional leaders. They read the news; they watch CNN, NBC and the like; and they discuss the political pettiness that supposedly passes for standing on one’s principles. For those of us who are a bit long-in-the-tooth, we’ve seen all this before. Disappointed would probably categorize our reaction. But for the young troops who haven’t been exposed to this soft underbelly of America’s schizophrenia, they are simply stupefied. They wonder what happened to the flag waving, the tearful goodbyes, the sense of national pride, and the 90% support numbers for the troops marching off to war?

Now in fairness, there are indeed folks who are continuing to show tremendous support for our warriors. A news program the other night had a lengthy segment highlighting dozens of patriotic Texans getting up early every morning, seven days a week, in order to be at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport to greet returning military units. These folks stand in line waiting for the warriors to walk by so they can shake their hand, pat them on the back, or give them a hug, all while speaking words of thanks and encouragement. It brought me to tears.

This Saturday I have been asked to speak to a church men’s group. My talk is entitled: “Today’s Military – From Where I Sit.” This church in Sacramento is one of those seemingly rare congregations that got on board with troop support from the outset of the war. It has been my pleasure to work with them. They faithfully collect boxes of supplies and goodies which they mail to our troops along with cards and letters of support and encouragement. But more importantly, they make it their purpose to hold our troops up in prayer, along with our president and the Congress. When they asked me to come and speak, it was easy to say yes.

One of the freedoms we enjoy, as well as abuse, is the freedom of speech. We are that rare nation in the history of the world that allows its citizenry to be openly critical of its leaders. Our military members gladly defend this right, along with all the other rights we enjoy as a free people. But there’s something you need to know.

Some of the same rights our military defends are not rights they can personally exercise. When a service member raises their right hand and swears an oath to “Support and Defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” that they “will bear true faith and allegiance to the same,” they also swear to “obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers” appointed over them. Being obedient within the military infrastructure helps maintain “good order and discipline,” an ingredient of military training essential to winning America’s wars and maintaining a strong standing army.

Please note, that when the president is criticized, ridiculed, vilified, pilloried, or in any other way targeted for abuse by Americans, the military takes it personally. Military members expect this from America’s enemies and critics – but not from our countrymen.

The president is not only the president – he is something different for the military. He is their Commander in Chief. Personal party affiliation or philosophical differences must take a back seat for the service member. They are not to speak against the president or the members of Congress because these are the individuals we work for. This is another historical anomaly: The United States is set up in such a way as to have civilian leaders exercise authority over the military. Why? Because, as the Founding Fathers knew from history, this approach to governance would significantly reduce the likelihood of a military coup. How many nations in the past hundred years saw their governments destroyed by a popular military leader who decided to take over? This is one of the reasons President Harry Truman called General Douglas MacArthur on the carpet for his publicly critical remarks about the president. In essence, President Truman as the Commander in Chief, fired his most senior military commander. And the president had every right to do so. Believe me – as a nation, we are unique in this.

One adage I grew up with went like this: “If you don’t have something good to say about somebody, then say nothing at all.” That’s good advice.

In the meantime, continue your support of both the troops and the administration. In times like these, even our defenders need defending. They’re changing history by ridding the world of terrorists and thugs. They need your strong support.

Your military will continue to be that dog that keeps the wolf from the door. And may God bless them for it.

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