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Today on this Veterans Day, I pray that all Americans will set aside our differences to honor those men and women whose sacrifices have allowed us to live in freedom.
Thirty years ago, I arrived at the United States Military Academy at West Point as a cadet with amazing young men and women from around the country. Throughout my time at West Point and then the U.S. Army, I served with people of every faith, race, social-economic class, and creed. They were literally from all walks of life in America, but they shared something in common: a love and respect for their country, and a willingness to risk sacrificing all they had to keep it safe.
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One memory from my service, in particular, stands out clearly in my mind. I was a young second lieutenant, fresh off basic training, reporting to Germany for my first assignment. I was assigned to Bravo Troop, First Squadron, 7th Armored Cavalry Regiment. Despite having done well at West Point and having just gone through all the necessary training, it was safe to say I really didn’t know what I was doing. My sergeant, first class, a non-commissioned officer who had served for well over a decade, soon set me straight. After saluting me (I was, after all, the higher-ranking officer) he said:
“Lieutenant, you’ll do really well if you just shut up for a while.”
It was my first real lesson as an officer, and it was the best piece of advice I could have gotten. In time, I learned a great deal from him, as well as from all the men with whom I had the privilege to serve, simply by listening.
Today, Americans would do well to take to heart my old sergeant’s words. Our military today is in crisis, so much so that veterans are speaking out. We ought to set politics aside and listen to them. They know what it takes for America’s military to be strong and capable, and ensuring it remains so should be our utmost priority.
In order to give our veterans a voice in this fight, I launched a nationwide campaign this year when veterans and active-duty members of our military could speak out. The response has been unbelievable.
A 25-year veteran of the Air Force and Air National Guard, a lieutenant colonel and squadron commander, retired recently because he “refused to treat non-vaccinated airmen differently than the vaccinated.” This stance cost them their career.
Another veteran decided to retire last year, after 26 years in the Army and the National Guard. He did so after watching National Guard and Army Reserve troops be given monthly “politically correct briefings on topics such as LGBTQ and other Woke/PC topics,” with very little real training. He remarked, “These soldiers are experts on not offending others but can’t shoot.”
One Air Force veteran, who had served for 22 years, summed it up perfectly. He said that President Joe Biden’s botched Afghanistan withdrawal, woke training, and Biden’s vaccine mandate “all hurt deeply.” An A-10 pilot, he and his wife were both graduates from service academies, but now planned to steer their children “away from following in (their) footsteps.”
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We have heard from so many more men and women who are extremely troubled at the state of our military, and all have come to the same conclusion: In our armed forces, competence is now subordinate to identity. We’re promoting politics over military readiness and lethality.
This doesn’t just make America less safe; it is a gross disservice to the men and women who served our country. They did not fight to see our armed forces become places of woke indoctrination.
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I urge my fellow Americans to talk to a veteran today and ask them this: “What defined your service?” I guarantee it won’t be whether they were vaccinated or unvaccinated. Or whether they were white, black, or brown. Or what gender they were, or any narrow, woke characteristic.
What will have mattered to them was that they served the country loved with excellence, alongside the finest men and women that our country has to offer.
Let’s honor our veterans by listening to them. Let’s restore the pride and honor they have for their service to today’s ranks and future generations.
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