Today is the National Day of the Deployed, and as someone who retired from military service after spending over 28-years wearing a uniform and subject to the provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, I did my fair share of deployments, the last one to Afghanistan. It’s tough to be away from your family, in harsh conditions, sometimes in danger’s way, yet we didn’t mind…we volunteered and knew the consequences.
But one thing I want to get straight: I pledged to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. Not a symbol. Not a person. The Constitution. Yes, I did as ordered, but the pledge of my life for our country’s governing document meant those who could order me into harm’s way held a sacred duty to equally honor the same piece of parchment. Did I always agree with their policies? No. Did I always subscribe to their same political views? No. Did I obey? Yes. Should they abide by that document and laws of our land? Yes. Should they value the lives of those protecting the Constitution and use the might of this nation wisely? Yes.
I learned over the years that the beauty of the document I swore to protect and defend allowed us Americans to be different from one another. I served so that the people of my country could have the freedom to disagree with each other and even their government, so that my country could be unlike any other in the world…one that guaranteed sacred freedoms, and through those, hope and opportunity.
Our Revolutionary War spanned eight years. Over 100,000 Americans, French, and Spanish died so that our representatives could draw up that guide to our government, the basis of our laws. I honored the Constitution with my service, and now retired, I continue to honor it by abiding by it. When someone exercises their First Amendment right of free speech, even if I don’t agree with them, I do not complain—if I did, would I not be sullying all the years I spent defending the rights within the Constitution? Would I not be saying I’ll defend the rights of only those who agree with me instead of the rights the document guarantees to all? Would that not be hypocritical?
And along those same lines, would it not belittle my service if I didn’t go vote? How could I say I supported the Constitution if I didn’t practice the rights within it? In my mind, if I didn’t vote, it would be me saying to myself that those 28-plus years didn’t matter at all.
But they did. So, I vote. Not just in the Presidential election, either. And you should, too, if you truly wanted to honor those who are deployed. They’re out there so you, and our future generations, can.