Standing by our oaths

By Maureen Ramsey

I am a disabled veteran, a Gold Star wife, a Blue Star mom and a retired after 32 years Department of the Army civilian living in Lubec. I have served stateside and overseas including an 18-month deployment to Afghanistan. I retired here to rediscover nature and the peace I found in Maine when I was younger. Lately, that peace has been increasingly disturbed by the continuing vile rhetoric and actions attributed to the 45th President.

Thomas Jefferson wrote, “God grant men of principle shall be our principal men.” The aspiration reflected in what he wrote over 200 years ago is important in today’s volatile world. Considering the recent news about our current president, Jefferson’s quote resurfaced in my memory. As I reflected on his words, I recalled the oath I took as an enlisted soldier toward the end of the Vietnam Conflict and of my service thereafter. “I, ____, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same…So, help me God.” (Title 10, US Code; Act of 5 May 1960 replacing the wording first adopted in 1789, with amendment effective 5 October 1962). Today’s young people enlisting take that same oath. Military officers and federal civil service civilians make a similar promise.

Like many of your readers or their family members, my husband, our two sons, son-in-law, daughter and daughter-in-law, my father, who fought in WWII and my father-in-law, a career soldier who saw action in WWII and Korea, along with my three brothers, two brothers-in-law and four uncles, all took that oath. Some were drafted; others voluntarily served. A few became career military; others left to take advantage of the GI Bill or to work in a chosen profession. Others are still serving. All served/are serving honorably and with distinction. All were/are men and women of principle. They fulfilled and continue to execute their oaths. None could ever be called “losers” or “suckers.”

Throughout training from basic through leadership advanced courses, whether enlisted, officer or civilian, and no matter what Armed Forces branch, there is emphasis on inculcating the values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage into one’s life. Reinforced throughout one’s service is the Warrior Ethos, “I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade.”

“Walking the talk” describes the mutual trust servicemembers and their leaders develop. They say what they mean and do what they say. When a leader’s professed values and that leader’s actual practices don’t jibe, the result is distrust, the degradation of the unit, and the erosion of morale.

Which brings me back to those incidents because each individually attacks our core values. None encourage trust in the person who was voted our present “leader.” His professed values and his actual practices don’t agree. The situations include: the current President’s reported use of “losers” and “suckers” to describe our fallen heroes and those missing in action; his questioning “why anyone would serve” since “there isn’t anything in it for them”; his objections to Wounded Warriors participating in or attending events because people would feel uncomfortable; the use of D.C. National Guardsmen to dispel peaceful demonstrators for his photo op; and his silence on Russia’s alleged bounty on the lives of U.S. servicemembers in Afghanistan.

These incidents compound this President’s history of disrespect: his repeated public disdain for the late Sen. John McCain; in forgetting the name of a fallen soldier then telling his grieving spouse her husband “knew what he signed up for”; by suggesting he made greater sacrifices because he “created … tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures” than the parents of Humayun Khan, a Muslim soldier killed in an Iraq suicide attack; his pardons of those found guilty of war crimes in military courts; and his boasts of being smarter than “his” generals.

Much like “death by a thousand cuts,” each incident is a cut into the fabric of America. As such, they undermine our democracy and that oath I took as a young recruit. Veterans, servicemembers and their families deserve a commander-in-chief who practices the same values as those who serve. Joe Biden embodies and practices those principles. I hope on Nov. 4 we wake up to say in the present “leader’s” own words: “Sir, for your failure to respect the U.S. Constitution and practice the principles we hold dear, You’re Fired!” And on Jan. 20, 2021, to President Joe Biden, “Reporting for duty. Welcome, Sir.”

Maureen Ramsey is a retired public affairs specialist with the U.S. Army. She lives in Lubec.

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