I said in my first post that I would occasionally post as a military officer. I will reiterate that these thoughts, words, and reflections are not those of the military nor of the Air Force specifically, but of me, myself, and I - I just think it's important to point out that I have served my country proudly for almost three years and plan to continue doing so, just for perspective on this post.
To start, I beg of my fellow military members to please explain to me what the heck they are so afraid of. I have many friends claiming that they will jump ship and get out of the Air Force at their first opportunity because the country dared to elect Barack Obama. The best explanation anyone can give me is that Obama is "socialist" (which is ridiculous) or that he plans on "cutting the military." I have yet to see documentation or anything better than the hateful rhetoric they have heard spouted on Fox News. As a matter of fact, Obama plans to increase the size of the Army and the Marine Corps, meaning fewer "in-lieu-of" assignments for the Air Force (assignments in which an Airman or Sailor deploys with the army to perform a function such as guard duty, convoy duty, or checkpoint duty, for which he or she is not trained as his or her primary job in his or her own branch of service). Also, did you not notice the force shaping and Reduction in Forces (RIF) that we've experienced under George W. Bush? The size of the military ebbs and flows with the needs of the nation, we know that and it's something we accept as the way of things. No particular party has cut or increased the size of the military more than another.
I don't even know where to start. Maybe with the fact that this armageddon attitude is melodramatic and distasteful to start with - remember 2004 when many Democrats claimed they'd be moving to Canada when Bush won? I don't have stats on this, but I doubt a whole lot actually moved, and despite the economic situation we're in now and the deadly war we're still fighting in Iraq, we're all still Americans and pretty much okay. I beg you doomsdayers to please remember that what happens in Washington generally has a pretty slim effect on your day-to-day life. It's how you treat others that matters. No one is taking away your guns, raising your taxes, or taking away your birthday. Stop whining, please, and get on with your life.
Next, I want to point out how upset I was during the campaign every time John McCain or Sarah Palin tried to speak for me as a veteran or military member. McCain said something during the first debate that really got under my skin:
"I know the veterans, I know them well, and I know that they know that I'll take care of them, and I have been proud of their support and their recognition of my service to the veterans, and I love them, and I'll take care of them, and they know that I'll take care of them."
How dare you sir? These are the words of someone with an absolutely abysmal record in relation to support and care of veterans. How on earth can he claim to speak for me? Somehow, however, there is almost a blind allegiance to the Republican party among military members - or at least a perceived allegiance. Turns out that among active duty military, McCain held 55% of the vote while Obama held 45%. Hardly a mandate for McCain or the Republicans among military. And while there is no exit poll for veterans that I have been able to find, I am willing to bet that close to a majority, if not an actual majority, of retired or separated military voted for Senator Obama (If anyone can find a poll that proves or disproves this, either way, I would be very interested. I can only find opinion polls from months before the election).
Brandon Friedman at VetVoice.com put together an unbelievably well researched, fact-checked compilation of McCain's terrible record in regards to the military and retired/separated veterans. Among the points noted are that McCain is given an abysmal 20% rating by the non-partisan group Disabled American Veterans, he voted over and over (and over) again against funding for veterans (and somehow it's Obama that gives Cindy McCain a shiver down her spine?) and he strongly and vocally opposed the 21st century GI Bill, which did pass, thank goodness, but certainly not with his help - he skipped the vote to be at a fundraiser. (This bill, for my civilian friends, is one of the very good things our government has done for us lately. It has provided tangible benefits to my Airmen in the form of education funding and opportunities, expanding more military benefits (including tuition assistance) to spouses and families, and many other very positive changes to military benefits. Need I mention that Obama fought for and voted for this bill?) So my dear military friends, next time a Republican claims to speak for you and you blindly follow his or her lead, I beg you to actually look at his or her record first.
I want to point out how ridiculous it is that there is even a perception out there that Republicans are somehow more patriotic or more apt to serve their country. Al Gore served in Vietnam. John Kerry did, too. Joe Biden's son is currently serving in Iraq. George McGovern was a war hero. Peter Kaufmann at Politico, a former Naval officer, discusses this phenomenon of the Republican stranglehold on military voters. I urge you to go read this article. He discusses how that hold was never more than surface-deep:
"Prior to Vietnam, military service was seen as an obligation of all Americans – regardless of political affiliation or wealth. George H.W. Bush and John F. Kennedy were both sons of privileged, politically-connected families who served heroically in the military during World War II. Back then, this was seen as your duty as an American – and no political party could lay an exclusive claim to the flag."
I want to see this era return. As Kaufmann points out, there are now more Democrats in Congress who are veterans than there are Republican veterans. Look at these facts and understand that we are all American. We all love our country. It is curious to me that you might turn your back on serving your country because you disagree politically with your Commander-in-Chief. One might be tempted to call you unpatriotic. I wouldn't, but I might seriously question your motives for entering the military in the first place. I just served 3 years under a Commander-in-Chief with whom I fundamentally disagree on many, many issues, but he was my Commander-in-Chief and I took an oath to serve my country. When you took that same oath, did it have the precondition that you would leave the service if we voted a Democrat into office? I might get out of the military in a couple of years because it's not the best fit for me as a career, but I know I'll be able to look back and say that I served honorably and did what my country asked of me. Good luck to those of you who will not be able to say that.
Comments are strongly, strongly encouraged - I have many, many friends in the military who I would like to hear from on this issue. And as for my civilian buddies, what say you? Do you perceive the military as strongly Republican or as non-partisan, with only duty, honor, and country on our minds? What does it say about the military if you do associate it with a particular party?