Independence Day 7/4/21

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

Yesterday, I “vented my spleen” about politics. I did that because today, I want to talk about the men and women who have fought to create our nation, and to defend it. Yes, the veterans and military personnel, all of whom deserve our greatest respect and gratitude.

We have not always been kind to our military personnel and veterans. In Vietnam, anti-war sentiment was high. Stories about what was happening overseas were rampant, and anger was misdirected towards those fighting to the point that protesters were throwing bags of urine at returning military. But regardless of what may or may not have occurred over there, the reality is that the anger was misplaced. Our military were doing what we need them to do; they were following orders. The politicians who got us tangled up in that war were the ones to blame, not the military.

Our military have fought (and unfortunately many died) defending our nation. They’ve followed the orders of our leaders and fought to protect our Constitution. The vow that the military personnel take swears the to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.” While in office, the President is the Commander in Chief, and ultimately responsible for the military actions of the United States, but the military does not swear to support or defend the president. When the National Guard was called in to put down the insurrection in our nation’s capital, they were not taking sides. They were not supporting the president-elect over the sitting president. What they were doing was protecting the Constitution, defending the Democratic procedure, and ensuring a proper and peaceful transition of power. They were upholding their oath.

So, before I go any further, let me just say “thank you.” Many thanks to the veterans, past and present, to those still on active duty, to those in the reserves, to those I know and do not know for what you have done to protect my rights. I know that many have fallen, and many have lost their comrades. I know I can never truly understand what those who have returned have experienced, but I’m grateful for those who faced it. Even those who have never seen combat or been put into harms way deserve our thanks. When one enlists, there is no clear pathway for them to see. Any of them at any time could be put in danger, and yet, they faced that danger, all of them, and the uncertainty to serve their nation.

And we cannot forget the family of those who have and are serving. The spouses, the children, the parents, the siblings, the relatives and the friends always send their loved ones off with a great deal of trepidation, not knowing if they will return or not. I had the honor of attending a ceremony to see one of our battalions (probably not the correct word; I apologize) off, and a second to welcome them home. I heard the orders that sent them overseas, and the welcome to bring them back. I found it interesting that a speech from a commander in both ceremonies was directed to the loved ones of the soldiers. In their leaving, the commander pointed out the need for the loved ones to be supportive of one another, of the resources available to them and their importance in the lives of the soldiers.

Sadly, on their return, the speech was focused, at least in part, on reintegration. The movies that show returning soldiers embracing their loved ones simply happy to be home are, frankly, oversimplified. The soldiers have been gone for an extended period, often measured in years, have faced their fears, the enemy, and seen horrific things that most of us cannot imagine. Often it takes time to re-adjust to domestic life, to being safe, and dealing with the memories of their service.

Maybe I have no right to speak of such things. After all, I’ve never been in the military. I certainly have no intention of being so arrogant as to say that I understand what they have been through, as I am at least smart enough to realize that I don’t have a common experience. And yet, the goal here is not to explain what our veterans have seen, but rather, just to acknowledge that I am aware that they have seen things I cannot understand, and to say thank you for what you have done to help protect me and all Americans. Thank you.

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