Rear Admiral [Ret.] Jim Carey is Chairman of the NATIONAL DEFENSE COMMITTEE and NATIONAL DEFENSE PAC. His background includes duty in cruisers and amphibs, at Naval Beach Group, and in the Pentagon, and naval service from Seaman Recruit to Rear Admiral. He also served in the Reagan and George Bush Sr. Administrations. Further details at The National Defense Committee and The National Defense Political Action Committee.
Is there anyone "out and about across the nation" as sick and tired as I am about the way the news media and the politicians are handling "who's a military hero and who isn't?" Or who you should vote for because "they're a bigger hero than the other guy?"
Doesn't it make you want to gag when you see some 3-piece pin-striped suit political campaign weenie who has never worn a uniform sneer and snort and revile a military veteran because "his candidate's military service was much more heroic than his opponent's?"
It sure does me.
In fact, in my opinion, anyone who has worn our nation's military uniform and served honorably and received an official honorable discharge acknowledging that service has, in fact, served with honor and courage and dignity, needs to be respected as such. And most assuredly they don't deserve to be sneered at and reviled with the same tone and manner that many have reserved over the years for those who cut and run to Canada to save their skins in previous American conflicts.
Perhaps if some of TV's talking airheads whose egos won't let them admit they don't know everything about everything were to merely take a few minutes out of their all-important existence to check some basic facts, they might discover that neither they nor the pin-striped suit pretty-boys they're interviewing have a clue as to what they're talking about.
A major guts-ball part of being a military veteran, at least in my view, is when you sign up for military service in the first place. You're basically signing on the dotted line saying "here's my life -- I commit it to my country to serve in the armed forces, and I will do what you tell me to do and go where you tell me to go -- all I ask is that you train me and equip me so I have a decent chance to come home again one day." But when you sign, you offer your life for your nation. What the nation and the military do with you from that point on is not up to you, but rather up to them. Military service is not like placing your burger order at the local McDonalds!
Once you've made the above commitment, you then have very little to say about what you're going to do or where you're going to serve. You go to basic training and then the military, based upon what they've observed of your abilities, or lack thereof, decides where to send you next. You might go to cooking school or warrior training or computer electronics or trench warfare -- but you do not get to say "I'm here for hero's school" and chart your own course. The military just doesn't work that way. You go where you're told and do what you're told to do and you serve where you're sent to serve.
Some guys and gals get greater opportunities to become heroes than others. Some go to sea in ships and subs or fly combat aircraft or drive tanks or analyze satellite photos or train others to do these things. And some of these become heroes and win medals for their heroism and others get stuck with the boredom of banging a word processor in some mundane building somewhere in the nation's heartland and never leave our beloved America and are never heroes. But is their service any less honorable? Not in my view. They signed their name on the line and offered their life to their nation -- and if they then did what they were told and served with honor and were honorably discharged, then they should be treated as such, with honor and dignity and respect. And most assuredly not sneered at on TV by some ego-driven campaign weenie whose only public service has been to regularly help themselves to the public feeding trough for a monthly pay check.
How about those who serve honorably and receive medals -- how do you sort out who served more honorably or who is the bigger hero? In my view, you don't. Both served honorably. But for sure the one thing you don't need to do is wonder out loud "who did what." Trust me, in the military, it's all a matter of record. If you had a pimple somewhere, it's in your health record. If you were issued a pair of socks, it's in your service record and you signed for it. If you got into trouble, it's in your record. If you received a medal, it's clearly defined what it was for in both the award recommendation and the medal citation. None of this has to be wondered about or anguished over or hands wrung wondering who did what and who is the more honorable or heroic one. It's all there in the individual's military record, in amazing, minute, and bureaucratic linguistics for all to see and read. So all this about whether George Bush missed a weekend Guard Drill or John Kerry got a purple heart for a pimple on his nose -- that's all sheer baloney. Check their records -- it's all there in black and white and inferring less than honorable service for either is a disservice to both. Let their official military records do the talking.
Which brings us then to one's post-military actions, which in my view for candidates who didn't make a full career of military service, is of much greater importance for holding elected national office. If the candidate or candidates both served in the armed forces, then in my view both signed up and offered their lives to their nation. So then if our concern is to now put that person into a position of high public trust, it would seem to me that we move beyond their military service, since that service is already a matter of public record, and let's take a look at what they have done since their honorable discharge from the military that makes them deserving of our trust and confidence and election.
This also doesn't seem to me to be that tough to do, in spite of all the hand-wringing by the pin-striped spinmeisters on TV. Just look at their records, be they candidates for Congress or Governor or President. In the Presidential campaign, both Senator Kerry and President Bush have long periods of political activism and public service for us to take a look at. Kerry has been a Senator since Moby Dick was a minnow -- just look at how he voted on the issues that are important to you, be they national defense or homeland security or veterans -- then combine how he voted with what he now says and take it from there. The same with President Bush. Before coming to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he was Governor of Texas, a huge state with a huge economy and lots of issues. What George Bush did in Texas as Governor and what he has done as President are all matters of public record -- just look at how he voted on the issues that are important to you, be it as Governor or President, and then combine how he voted on the record and what he's now saying about these issues and take it from there. Seems to me to be fairly simple, eh?
So there you have it. A simple primer on how to determine the nature of anyone's military service, as well as a simple and straight forward way to compare candidates for public office.
Now all you need is an hour on the Internet and you'll be ready to vote in November, right?
Actually, if it works that well for you, I could use some advice. I'm still struggling with who to vote for as my local mayor.