Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Silence Isn't Golden Anymore - Memorial Day 2015

I made a comment on a friend’s post on Facebook. “Please do not make Memorial Day political.” It sparked open a can of worms. People jumped to defending me, others jumped at defending my friend. I say that seriously, everyone in this debate, is truly good friends. So I will give you my personal perspective on this.  

Who makes up our military?
Our military is made up of Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, DHS (Dept. Homeland Security) and civilian personnel. There are 3.6 million serving, 14% of our active duty force are women, 82% of the military is college educated and 56% of them are married. 1/3 of our military classifies themselves as Black, African American, Asian, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, unknown, or multi-racial. With 1/4 of our active duty officers being 41 years of age and older. 22% of active duty officers are between 26-30 and 18% of active duty officers are under the age of 25. Here is the kicker, 43% of our military, active and reservists, have children. Finally, there are over 21 different religions recognized as serving in the U.S. Military. Now that we have an understanding of who makes up our military, we can dispense with the notion that TV gives us, where our Generals are some crusty old guys with cigars, hell bent on flexing the mighty US War Machine for personal gain. However I recognize that many reading this think that exactly. The US has been at war with something or someone 93% of it’s years since 1776. Some of that can be considered the Cold War, the War on drugs, the war on Terror. But basically no president can actually call themselves a peace time president. The draft ended on January 27, 1973. So our military today is likely an all volunteer force. Mainly because anyone still left over from the draft days, is not being forced to stay in. Actually if promotions don’t occur in a timely manner, many are forced out.

Politicizing Memorial Day:
People can say what ever they want. That is the beauty of the freedom we exercise in this country. You can burn a flag, preach politics from a pulpit in church make movies about how bad our country is and even sell t-shirts with the American Flag displayed upside down in full distress. This is a freedom we have because of our military preserves it. But that doesn’t exempt those exercising that freedom from people exercising the freedom of response. We can respond in a variety of ways: not buying, not voting, not financially supporting, or with a vicious verbal and sometimes physical backlash. So yesterday when I read the posts from my friends, I just grieved a bit. One post said Memorial Day was a government hoax. Another said, “Memorial Day: Honor their deaths by questioning anyone calling for more of them.” I don’t know anyone calling for more deaths of military personal.  I do however understand that calling for war will ultimately mean more death. While many of you will say, it’s just Facebook, Ignore it. I believe silence Isn’t golden anymore. Too often silence has done more damage that speaking out and having the debate. If you are an abused child, tell someone. If you are a battered spouse, tell someone. If you are being stalked or bullied tell someone. If your friend is about to drive drunk, tell someone. But if your political view isn’t in step with your friends, their faith or your ethnic group, stay as quiet as possible and never talk about it…….What?

While I think the Memorial Day political posts were distasteful and disgusting, I understand where it comes from. Our military knows, when the politically expedient dust settles from all the debate, they will be the ones to give their lives when evil comes knocking. From experience, they also know, if they have to fight them eventually, then they would rather do it before the enemy, is well established, resourcing, and growing. So who are we talking about that is “calling for more of them?” Our politicians. 

There are no longer any veterans on the supreme court, and 2012 was the first presidential election were there was no veteran running on either side of the two parties. Congress, who has to approve a declaration of war, use to be 77% veterans and in 2014 was just around 20%. This doesn’t change the fact that every person in our military willingly choose to sign on the dotted line and place their country as more valuable then their life. No soldier can join the military these days and play the odds they will never see combat. Our military still runs on rank and order to make sure everyone moves in unison. Therefore, they all know they may be given an order that they disagree with, but still must carry out. Those decisions often cost the lives of service men and women. For me, this is where experience, education, history, faith, vision and fortitude must all converge at the same place…”Leadership”

Two weeks after Pearl Harbor The War Powers Act became law. Then a second WPA was made law several months later. Until 1973 Congress had to grant the president a declaration of war. In 1973 the War Powers Resolution was passed. This allowed the President to commit United States forces into an armed conflict without the consent of the congress. This might explain why things are called operations or conflicts and not actual wars. Most of our presidents, as Commander-In-Chief, still go to congress even though they don’t have to. 

So now that we know who actually has the power to send our troops to war, and who actually makes up our military, can I please come back to my initial comment? Memorial Day is about honoring those who died in combat. Even though I honor my father who was a retired Two-Star General on both Memorial Day and Veterans Day, my father did not die in combat. I am thankful I am not visiting his name on the wall in D.C. with 60,000 other soldiers names on it. Sure I can go and visit his grave at Arlington, but rather than a huge headstone in a private part of the cemetery at Arlington, my Dad wanted to be buried along side his men. So he chose the same headstone that is offered to the lowest ranking veteran at Arlington. Lowest Ranking, is that even possible when you are talking about someone who gave their life. My father commanded men and women in harms way, and has himself been ordered into combat. So when you post about how political Memorial Day is, I feel you disrespect the lives lost that gave you that right. Soldiers choose to put their life on the line because they believe this nation is the only thing preventing evil men from absolute power. They die, for their family's future and the soldier to their left and right. We have seen conflict and war since the beginning of time, prior to the U.S. ever existing, and if one day this nation should fall, we will still see evil, trying to flourish.  So, politically if you want to question those calling for more war, which was probably the heart behind these posts, you have to set aside your political parties, biases, and preconceived notions and demand more of people on the campaign trail, and in office, before they rise to a level or power where they can send our family members off to war.  As far as Memorial Day is concerned. Let them rest in peace by honoring their sacrifice. Let their families grieve their personal lost while a grateful nation comes along side them and holds them up and wipes away a tear. Then on Tuesday when the politics fires back up and all the TV specials are done. Demand more of everyone including yourself to be better. Some of you may think we’ve been at war because we have so many veterans in our political system. Some may believe it is time to have no military experience running the country.  I believe in Both/And. But I also believe perspective is learned through experience. When the lives of real men and women, with families and spouses are relegated to being called “Boots On The Ground” it shows that we have already begun the disassociation mentally from them as real people in our community. They become just numbers. When that occurs, you are on the precipice of Holocaust and Slavery. 

To my friends that posted, you know I love you guys, and you know I would lose respect for you if you pulled your post if you really believe that, just because you thought I was hurt by it, or caved to peer pressure. To my friends that came to my defense, I am so blessed to have you guys in my life. To my friends that came to another’s defense, this is why I love you. It is what binds us together into being something greater than the sum or our parts. It is what makes relationships work, the struggle standing in the gap for each other.

This is what Memorial Day is to me?
Every time I am in Washington DC. I go to the Lincoln Memorial and read these words carved into the interior wall.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
 - AbrahamLincoln

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