I grew up in a military family. My father served in the Army for 32 years, fought in the Pacific during World War II and retired as a Lt. Colonel. My brother graduated from West Point and is a highly decorated Viet Nam veteran. I am deeply proud of both of them and the sacrifices they made serving in the military.
I often wonder what my father would think of all that is going on now in our country and around the world. Daddy did not attend college but he was probably one of the most intelligent and well-informed people I have ever known. He read voraciously and was always up to date on all current events. Our dinner table conversations usually centered on the news of the day and the historical implications and connections to those events. My siblings and I have joked that our education came more from those dinner conversations with our father than anything we learned in school. Interestingly, he didn’t spend much time on his own opinions but focused on the facts.
He was proud of his career in the military and was extremely patriotic. I share his patriotism. But the United States military can only do so much.
We Americans are taught to believe that our military is there to fight for our freedoms. And we have gotten to a place where we have elevated the military to a point of idolization. I think even my father would agree that that level of hero worship can be dangerous.
At its most basic, the military is there to protect our sovereignty and to protect us in the case of invasion of a hostile power. Over our history, the military sometimes works preemptively on foreign land to stem those threats. On occasions, our military has been used in situations that didn’t quite fit into the traditional context of their purpose.
When we talk about the military fighting for our freedom, what does that mean exactly?
I assume we mean all of the freedoms laid out in the Constitution, right? They are supposed to be protecting our freedom of speech, freedom of religion and our right to pursue life, liberty and happiness. And we should probably throw in the freedom to vote in open elections too. I could go on but these basic freedoms will cover it for now.
In my lifetime, the military has been deployed mostly in the Middle East and Asia. After two World Wars the United States joined with our allies in NATO and the UN to form coalitions to fight as a multi-national group against threats to democracy around the world. So, while our military wasn’t fighting battles on our soil, they were deployed around the world to promote and protect the ideals of those democratic nations who knew it made more sense to work together than as separate entities.
That’s all well and good. But what about the fight here at home? How do we protect those same freedoms when they are being attacked here by our very own elected officials?
As I type there are concerted efforts to squash the freedom of the press, freedom to protest, freedom to vote, freedom to end a pregnancy and freedom to marry who you choose. This isn’t histrionics. Each one of these freedoms has been under increasing pressure. There has been recent legislation in many states to curb protests, end abortion rights and so-called “religious freedom” bills that ultimately lead to discrimination against vast segments of our population.
The attack on voting was a huge issue in this past mid-term election. Legalized gerrymandering is the go-to fix to make sure the minority gets the majority of state legislative seats. Voter roles were purged in record numbers. ID laws were created to make it difficult for certain segments of the population to vote. The list goes on.
If we can’t get free and fair elections – what I would argue is one of the most basic and fundamental rights – then how do we call ourselves a democracy? And who is supposed to fight so that we keep that basic freedom?
The United Nations? The ACLU? The military?
So when I hear someone say or post on social media something along the line of “Thank a veteran for your right to vote – or insert any freedom here” I always kind of wonder what they mean by that.
How is the military helping to fight the forces right here in our own government who are attempting to curb our freedom?
They aren’t. It wasn’t designed that way.
So, while I support our military and am proud of the military lineage in my own family, I really wish everyone would stop thanking them for protecting our freedom.
Yes, our freedom is under attack. There are foreign leaders who want our democracy to fail. But, technically, we aren’t militarily at war with those people.
The biggest attacks on our freedom are coming from within. And I’m not sure the military can do very much about that. I, for one, don’t want it to get so bad that they have to become involved in that fight.
Not all wars are fought with bombs, tanks and guns with troops on the ground and fighter jets in the air.
The war on our American freedoms is raging but the military soldiers aren’t the ones who can save us.
The fight for freedom right here in the United States of America needs to be fought by each one of us. Whether we wear a uniform or not.