American Soldiers – Tortured Duty & Tortured Mission
The Whys and Whats Becoming Harder to Answer?
Families that honor military service are spread all across this nation. I grew up in one. Even as a teenager in the sixties, I remember knowing that freedom wasn’t free. My father had served in Patton’s 3rd Army, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and served as a guard at the Nuremberg War Trials. How could I not know the price of freedom? WWII, now that was a just war. Everyone knew it. Everyone knew the war had to be won at all costs because failure clearly meant tyranny and death for an entire people, the Jewish people. Everyone knew, even the media knew the Whys and Whats. Why they were fighting? What they were fighting for? They knew the cost of winning and losing! And, victory wasn’t a dirty word.
However, my brother and I served in the United States Navy during a time in America’s history dominated by numbing callousness, selfishness, and indifference. The loss of the Vietnam War brought about by the media and endless protests of duplicitous, naïve dreamers and schemers; the festering pain of Watergate continuously exploited by politicians in D.C., the good but lackluster caretaker President Ford portrayed as a bumbling stumbling fool on Saturday Night Live, the My Lai massacre and Lt. Calley’s conviction not quite distant enough to avoid its stench, and a war/corruption weary people’s vote for change promised by Jimmy Carter all marked this period. Amazingly, like today, Carter’s change didn’t live up to expectations. Instead it brought gas lines, high inflation, 20+ percent interest rates and high unemployment – despair.
And the military was not spared in the mid 70’s. My awareness was that Carter was always attacking their budgets, minimizing the Soviet/communist threat, and interfering with matters that should have been left with the military, like his pardon of draft dodgers. Like closing GITMO, that action was certainly more of an appeasement to the far left than anything else. Democrats have been courting them for a long time.
Not unlike today’s media, the 70’s media reported much of their “news” in ways that portrayed the military, its leadership and contracting in the worst possible light. At the time, having credibility, it did appear as though reporters were merely following “the story” where it led. You know, paying homage to the type of Journalism that revealed the dirt in Watergate. But, considering the corruption of today’s media, I’m probably being too kind. The price of every screw, hammer and ladder was held up as symbols of systemic corruption. And just like today, the broad-brush criticism and vilification drifted through the ranks to land on the individual soldier.
The cloud of post Vietnam warmonger shame continued staining the uniform in the minds of many Americans. The 70’s media and Jane Fonda had done a good job of mixing up the good and bad guys, buying time for the Vietcong. I suppose they weren’t comfortable with the concept of winning either. Thankfully though, Carter’s dreadful economy and gas lines were overwhelming and required most of the media’s attention. The vast majority of those who did love the military were tired and let down by Nixon; and those who had been in the streets had their guy in Oval Office. So almost everyone seemed to be trying to turn the page. And with that turn of the page, the American soldier seemed to be all but forgotten. The soldier’s duty to protect and defend remained but the camera’s glare was gone. That’s my memory anyway.
Carter’s negative effect on military morale and cohesion was palpable. The lack of any real resolve or credibility was clearly visible. His handling of the Iranian Revolution and the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini were abysmal. It was weird, we were training Iranian pilots at Naval Air Memphis in 75 – a couple of wrong moves by a weak President and poof, 52 Americans were being held hostage for over a year.
The loss in Vietnam, Watergate, protests in the streets, President Ford, President Carter, hard ball politics and a deepening economic crisis were conspiring against the military. We were not immune to the tumult. It was like a powerful magnet kept our compass spinning. Drugs seemed to be everywhere in the military and military discipline a nearly foreign concept. To be fair, after Vietnam, many military officers were not that gun ho. (I suppose some had begun to believe that Vietnam was an un-winnable shameful mistake – maybe some felt that everyone should be forgiven their part- including draft dodgers – some were just tired of it and decompression, down time was what the American soldier needed. Who knows?)
To illustrate how bad it was – in my squadron (I was an In-Flight Electronics Tech), when one of our P-3’s was scheduled to be washed, it was not unheard of for the wash crew leader to provide a few lines of cocaine to speed up both the process and the morale. Officers seemed willing to see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. We were lucky no one ever got hurt. (Remind anyone of the PC military leadership today?)
Come to think of it, the “cold war” with the USSR (which was fairly hot then) was probably one of the main forces that held together our sense of “duty” and “responsibility” during the Carter years. The soldier’s duty to protect and defend always remains. But at any given time, the military is more – or less capable and the junior soldier accepts it as he or she finds it. What choice do they have? (I joined when I came of age and was expecting to find the military my older brothers served in. But – it was very different.)
It was a perfect storm that had brought us Carter Presidency. And with it’s battered and bruised image, the United States military seemed to have a hell of time riding out that storm until President Reagan could put his hands to the reigns. Reagan’s zero-tolerance drug testing came along after I got out and things started turning around rather quickly according to my brother. I believe the foundation that President Reagan built (or rebuilt) continues to serve soldiers today and will not be easily surrendered by the military leadership.
Well, hopefully it won’t.
It’s one of my regrets concerning my military service that Ronald Reagan was not yet President. If evil were there, Reagan would have seen, heard, spoke about & done something about it. He didn’t close his eyes and hope evil would go away. I checked a dozen or so years ago with another In-Flight tech I served with about some of the guys (friends) in our electronic shop and learned that 3 had done some jail/prison time and 1 had gone through rehab. Problems usually don’t just go away.
As a young enlisted man at that time, I went with the flow because…because I was a kid, had never been out of the country, military was not my career and I didn’t know shit from shinola. The military and the flow of the military felt much bigger than I was. But, I loved the mission and flying was where I wanted to be. Who knows, if Reagan had been there, I might have retired from the Navy.
See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil is not a command structure that serves the military or the individual soldier well. Neither is going with the flow.
But it’s the military leadership, the career guys and gals, who have a shot at controlling or changing the flow. Yes, sometimes they fail, but it’s their job to address the issues. It’s especially egregious when they, like politicians, just won’t see or acknowledge that something is becoming a problem – when they don’t want to get ‘their’ hands dirty or risk jeopardizing ‘their’ career paths. Two words – Ft. Hood.
And so I come to write this conflicted accolade to today’s American Soldier.
Tracking submarines, keeping tabs on ships, flying cover missions, no matter the whether, joint exercises, injuries and casualties, doing the mission, doing my duty were what kept me most grounded in the military. It answered the Whys and Whats for me. It was when politics, drugs, alcohol and all the BS disappeared and one knew Why they were serving, What they were protecting and how much it could cost. I knew, understood and believed down deep that I was protecting freedom, the Constitution and my family. As corny as that may sound, it made it worth doing – no matter how flawed.
Soldiers serving in the first few years after 9/11 must have had an incredible sense of the Whys and Whats that carried them through each and every day.
In the 70’s, war weariness, drugs, alcohol, lack of strong leadership, lack of discipline, being made to feel like polar opposites of the culture promoted by the media, and a general lack of encouragement from a tired American public were as great a threat to our concepts of duty, cohesion, sacrifice, morale and the mission as was the U.S.S.R and communism. I’m sure these same factors give al qaeda, the taliban, and other Islamic terrorists cause for hope.
Of course, we had politicians undermining the military for their own advantage and a biased media. But from my perspective, the corruption of politicians and the media in the 70’s – pale to what the military encounters today. It has seemed that for the past half dozen years, the far left and the media have been actively trying to bring about the defeat of the American military by taking political correctness to the extreme, urging untenable rules of engagement and intentionally mixing up the good & bad guys for political/ideological gain. And yet, our military continued doing an amazing job defending freedom around the world.
And of course, we had politicians who would have undermined the American economics system to replace it with a bigger nanny state. Democrats did control Congress during President Ford’s term and during President Carter’s disastrous four years. They did screw things up but they didn’t do it in a manner that couldn’t be undone. But they were nowhere near as bad as today’s leftist/Marxist Democrats.
Today, we have Obama in the Oval Office and a Democratic controlled Congress (dominated by the radical left since 2006) and they are galloping as fast as they can towards creating a socialist system that would make Vladimir Ilyich Lenin proud. If you look past the rhetoric you easily see that they are attempting to create larger and larger voting blocks that are wholly dependent on the federal government, hands out, afraid to question anything, afraid to vote for anyone calling for personal responsibility. Having a nation of sheeple, like birds at a bird feeder, is not good for the country or our future. Look at the recent action Obama took diminishing our American sovereignty on Dec. 17. Constitution be damned. Does anyone really think the Second Amendment is safe?
And yet, today’s military continues to do an amazing job defending freedom overseas.
I use the phrase “defending freedom overseas” instead of “around the world” because, as much as I love them, I’m not sure they are defending our freedoms at home. I can’t really blame the enlisted soldier because when I was in the military, I didn’t have time to keep up with what politicians at home were attempting to do to us. I basically thought politicians were all self-serving pieces of crap and the voting process would weed them out. Unfortunately, that’s not the case today. (The statement that politicians “were all self-serving pieces of crap” is still accurate, but the vote might not be able to undo the damage they are doing to our freedoms and the Constitution.)
And the military leadership continues to see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil and ignore “the flow” that’s becoming more and more turbulent.
(And the American soldier is expected to accept “the flow” as he or she finds it?)
It seems to me that today’s American Soldier now finds him or herself in the untenable position of having their oath, duty and mission tortured by Obama and the Congress. (It must be especially untenable for the soldier who joined because they thought they were protecting freedom and the Constitution.)
The mission – I think of this as each bomb dropped, bullet fired, enemy captured or killed, each military plan executed, each foot of ground captured and held, each training and standing up of local police and military to make it possible for our exit, taking reasonable measures to safeguard the innocent in the battle theatre and continually maintaining readiness in order to protect those of us at home.
The mission becomes tortured when political correctness runs amuck allowing terror attacks like in Ft. Hood, when rules of engagement make it more dangerous for our guys, when war plans and decisions are made by politicians for their own political reasons (closing GITMO, the trial of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in NY), failing to realize that sometimes terrorists deserve and receive fat lips from a Navy Seals during capture (PC amuck), persecuting the CIA for being a little rough on terrorists when the information they are seeking could save lives, when winning and neutralizing the enemy is not the objective, etc., etc., etc.
This is when it becomes hard to answer Whats and Whys. What the hell are we doing fighting like this? What is this doing to keep my family and their freedoms safe? What will happen when some politician pulls us out? What will keep us from having to come back? What can I do to make it right? Why won’t they let us win?
It must be hard to go with the flow under such circumstances, hard to keep morale high and harder to think about signing up for more.
The duty – I think of this as the soldier doing his or her best to live up to the oath they took when they enlisted. Basically the duty is to support, protect and defend the Constitution and the freedoms/protections flowing from it to each and every citizen.
…I, (NAME), 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….
Even though Obama, Pelosi and Reid would prefer that our American soldiers protect and defend some socialist version of the Constitution drafted in conference without consulting the People or States (like healthcare), thankfully that is not the case. Not yet anyway.
Hopefully every soldier read and understood the Constitution before they put on the uniform because it is an awesome responsibility.
A soldier’s duty and the Oath become tortured when the rights of terrorists are elevated (created out of thin air) and are put above the safety of the American soldier, when Obama diminishes our American sovereignty, when Obama’s Attorney General’s personal vendetta against President Bush and the CIA appears to influence his decisions to try the 9/11 mastermind in NYC and to bring other enemy combatants to the US for show trials, and when Obama and Eric Holder appear more interested in prosecuting a war against the CIA to appease the far left instead of against Islamic terrorists, when military officers put political correctness above their duty to protect soldiers under their command (Ft. Hood), when military officers and politicians choose to ignore critical parts of Constitution because it would bring trouble to them (they may be called names).
All of these illustrate situations where officers up the chain of command, including the “Commander In Chief”, appear ready to shirk their duty to the Constitution and America Soldiers under their command so they can protect their relatively trivial career ambitions and/or pursue their personal political agendas.
This is when it becomes hard to answer the Whats and Whys. What does support and defend the Constitution mean? Who are the enemies of the United States? Why am I defending something that seems optional for my superior officers? What is really important to the chain of command – advancement, career or the Oath? Who are the Oathkeepers? Why should I obey my superior officers when they choose to ignore parts of the Constitution? What’s the point? What am I doing that protects the Constitution and the Freedoms of my family and friends?
For me and millions of other Americans, the one provision of the Constitution that has been most blatantly ignored by Command – and has followed/plagued Obama throughout his time in the Oval Office, cost him “at least $1.7 million” keeping his records hidden, and seriously calls into question whether he can legally act as Commander In Chief and issue any “lawful orders” is Article II, Section 1.
See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil is not a command structure that serves the military or the individual soldier well.
The “natural born citizen” issue will not go away and I’m sure it’s on the minds of many in the military; it affects morale, re-enlistment decisions, and how many traditional military supporters view the institution. It’s similar to how the epidemic of drug use in the 70’s military effected civilians & soldiers who knew about the problem and cared about what it said about the institution.
When I served, the military had a disease that needed to be cleaned up before the uniform could shine in all its glory.
Our military has a disease that can only be healed by thoroughly investigating the allegations against Obama and taking the appropriate actions. Shine the light on all his records. If the answer turns out that Obama is in fact a natural born citizen, then that’s great – the disease will be cured.
But having the Joint Chiefs, General Petraeus, General Stanley McChrystal and the Judge Advocate General’s Corp continue seeing no evil, hearing no evil, and speaking no evil is not acceptable. It disrespects everyone who ever wore the uniform. America and its citizens can handle the truth!
To the American Soldier – Thank you for your service and sacrifices for this country.
I am truly sorry to be in the position of having to speak so bluntly about an institution that I love.