Today I honor the men and women of the United States military who have sacrificed their lives while doing their duty to the Republic. For them, and their families, I ask God to bless them and keep them. And for the fallen of the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army I offer prayers and gratitude. The soldiers of the 82nd who sacrificed their lives while serving with honor have left a legacy which will not be forgotten. Thank you for inspiring Cpt. Winston Elliott IV and his former comrades in the 82nd Airborne.
Today is an appropriate time to review the mission of those who serve in the U.S. military. We should also remember the responsibility of citizens to hold accountable those elected to public office who determine where and when our soldiers are asked to fight, and sometimes die. We are ultimately responsible for the decisions which put our soldiers in harms way.
Below is the oath my son swore when he was commissioned an officer in the United States Army. How many citizens of our Republic honor these words?
“I, _____ , having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.” (DA Form 71, 1 August 1959, for officers.)
Questions to Ponder for Citizens of the Republic regarding Military Policy
What is the proper role of military power for a Republic? Is it the role of a Republic to maintain a large military presence in foreign lands? For what purpose would a Republic expend large amounts of blood and treasure to promote “democracy” in far away nations? What does this say in relation to countries, such as Cuba, which are much closer to us and living under repressive governments? Would the framers of our governmental institutions (Washington, Jefferson, Adams) support a long term (20 years in Afghanistan, over 50 in Korea) placement of troops in foreign lands? Is it the Republic’s duty to spend whatever is necessary (in lives and borrowed money) for as long as it takes to impose order in places where cultural mores and tribal hatred systemically undermine the conditions which are necessary for ordered freedom to flourish? Is the militarization of our foreign policy a reasonable price to pay for these efforts? Is it likely that our zeal to “make the world safe for democracy” will call for policies and expenditures which undermine republican principles in our own home? If we are in a state of fiscal & moral crisis in this nation is it responsible to make such expenditures even if the goals are determined to be legitimate? Are we truly in a position to tell other nations to get their house in order in light of the state of decay of our Republic?
To Winston Elliott Jr., and Winston Elliott IV, thank you for your service and for the sacrifice of your lost comrades in arms. Let us lift a glass to fallen friends and honor them in life, and in death.
This updated essay originally appeared in The Imaginative Conservative in May 2013.
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