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Friday, February 9, 2018

Monsters




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Someone asked, "What would you say to someone considering joining the military right now?"

My answer?

Don't.

Flip, I suppose. Terse, certainly. But that’s my recommendation nonetheless.  Don’t.

It doesn’t need to be any more elaborate than that, if you understand what you’re asking.

It doesn’t require any more words than that, if you understand what you’re asking.

If you understand what you’re asking.

Don’t.

Simple as that.

But, of course, it’s not that simple.

And, of course, it didn’t end there.

How could it?

I mean, if you had to ask, well…


Those you who follow me on Twitter, you saw the responses.


Don’t

Many seemed shocked, surprised, as if they expected a career veteran like me to have answered differently.

But why? They asked. Why would you tell people not to join the military? You did. You spent 20 years and more in the military, why would you, you of all people, tell others not to join up? Are you one of them? One of those disgruntled vets, all sour and angry and ashamed of your service?

No.

No, I’m not one of them.

Not at all.

I’m proud of my service. I’m glad I served. Even when the war was unjust and ill-conceived and based on lies, my service, and that of those who served beside me and under my command, was honorable. I’m proud of my service and those I served with. I am neither bitter nor angry nor ashamed of it. Just the opposite and I’ve written enough about my career here that such should be obvious.

But this world, this America today, is not the same nation it was when I signed up.

I was no idealist. I joined up for a number of reasons, some good, some dumb, some I’ve told you about in other articles and some that are none of your business, but idealism wasn’t one of those reasons. I knew what I was getting into. I joined the military in the first years of the Reagan Administration. Back then, agree with the president or not, the Cold War was very real and you could at least see the very explicit threat America faced every day. We didn’t have to go looking for it. We didn’t have to provoke it with bombast and juvenile posturing on Social Media – even if such had existed back then. And while I wasn't so foolish as to believe everything the government told me, I believed that the majority of those in our government wanted to make the world a better place. Reagan, whatever his faults, whatever his ideology, was trying to make nuclear war less likely, not start one to prove his manhood.

I don’t idolize Ronald Reagan, far from it. And I am well, well aware of his myriad faults and I despise the path he set American politics on, the path that has led thirty years later to this very point. But I was willing to sign up and serve under his command because I believed he truly wanted to make the world a better place for all of us. Reagan tried to tear down walls, not build new ones.

I don’t expect you to agree with me about that. I expect you and I see that time differently. That’s okay.

But I think we can agree that the world, and America, was a very, very different place and Reagan aside, back before the rise of the 24/7 news cycle and hate TV and 9-11, I believed the majority of Americans wanted to make the world a better place. We certainly didn’t agree on how, and maybe many of those Americans never thought beyond winning the Cold War, but in large part most of our country wanted to make the world a better place.

I could support that.

I could be part of that.

Even if I didn’t agree with the various administrations over the years, or the methodology, or how we were used, I could be part of that.


Fast forward to the present:


Joining the military is (so far) still a personal decision.

If you're considering it, then you should understand in detail what that decision implies.

You're going to swear a binding oath to obey the orders of the President. This President. If you don’t understand what that means now, well, you could find yourself later in the same jail cell Chelsea Manning just vacated.

You need to understand that oath and what it means before you sign up.

Oh sure, the orders must be lawful.

But you’re going to find out, sooner or later, that there is a hell of a lot of wiggle room in lawful. Using that above example: nothing that Manning disclosed, not one of the things she couldn’t live with, none of them were unlawful. Immoral maybe. Unethical. Horrible. But not unlawful.

And here's the real rub: what is and is not lawful, well, that’s decided by Congress and the President.

This Congress.

This President.

You? Once you swear that oath, you don't get to decide what is and is not lawful, but you will be held responsible for it anyway -- and they will not.

So, before you hold up your right hand and swear your oath, you need to think about what that could mean for you personally.

Particularly under this Congress and this president.

And you need to think about it in detail. Hard. All the way through. And if you can't live with what it very well might come to, if you can’t see what it might very well come to, then don't swear that oath.

Because once you do, you're part of it.

All the way.

Once you swear that oath, you're part of this administration. Part of its agenda. And you’ll be held responsible, at least in part, by history for it. If you sign up during this administration, you're saying you're good with all of that – or if not good per se, then at least you can live with it. Whatever it might come to. You won't have an excuse. You volunteered. You're in, all the way, whatever might come, to the bitter end.

And you damned well better understand that in your bones.

Me? I spent more than 20 years in the military. I served under Republicans and Democrats with equal fidelity. I had to do some pretty shitty things in some pretty awful places. I don't regret that, because I made my peace with it before I swore my oath the first time and again when I became a Chief and then an Officer and was put into a position were I would surely have to order others to do terrible things in the name of my country.

I can live with it.

I can live with it, even if I didn't agree with the government, or the president of the moment, or the war. I did my duty because I believed we were right. Because I believed we weren't sacrificing our lives for nothing. Because I believed the majority of Americans wanted to make the world a better place.


I no longer believe this to be true of America.


You see, my word, once given is good. No exceptions.

So I don't give it lightly. And as such, I could not in good conscience swear to obey the orders of this President, even lawful ones – not when he is enabled, encouraged, and unchecked by this Congress and an America who put these rotten faithless sons of bitches in power. I could not in good conscience follow the orders of this feckless fool of a President unrestrained by this small-minded hateful Congress. I do not believe they want to make the world a better place for anyone but themselves.

I do not trust these people not to waste lives, mine, yours, the lives of my troops, the lives of our children, or the lives of those caught in the middle.

In point of fact, many in this government have made it abundantly clear that they regard the lives of those they deem unAmerican to be unworthy of any further consideration. This is not acceptable to me. I would not pledge my life to those who see me as expendable to further their own selfish ends.

Yes, but what about the Coast Guard, someone asked. What about the National Guard, asked several others.

No.

Hell no.

Those services most especially.

Why? Well, see, the Coast Guard is a military service under the cognizance of the Department of Homeland Security.

Think about that.

Think about why it is that way.

You want to think carefully about what that implies nowadays in the context of, oh say immigration, or drug enforcement, or national security, and how those things have grossly distorted the Coast Guard's traditional mission in this paranoid, nationalist, post-911 America. And then you want to remember that the Coast Guard is specifically not under the Department of Defense because it is, primarily, a law enforcement agency who unlike the rest of the military, can enforce the government's will directly on Americans without regard to the Posse Comitatus Act or other niceties.

The same is true of the National Guard when under the command of State Governors, and I wouldn't trust those fascist bastards not to abuse that power nor this federal government to hold them in check.

Nor would I want to be the instrument of it.

How likely do I think that danger is?

I don’t know. And that’s the problem.


So, if you're thinking of joining, think on that very carefully.


Remember, you asked me what I would do.

Back in the early part of the last century, there were those Germans who signed up. They weren’t Nazis. They weren’t terrible people. They were serving their country long before the fascists came along. They were decent people who hailed from a tradition of service in a nation that valued their sacrifice. They were professionals. And when Hitler came to power, well, at first they were glad to see their military restored to priority in that society.

But when it all went to hell, when the horror became apparent, it was too late. They were part of it then. All the way. To the bitter end.

Those men, they didn’t know, not at first, not like those who joined up after the truth was obvious, but in the end they had become monsters just the same.

Today?

In this world?

In this America?

I would not join up, because I know in detail what that oath means.

The oath is power. Service is power. Not for you, but for those who command it.

And I know that the restraints and the reason that were once placed on that power no longer exist in America.

I won’t be a part of that. And I am not willing to risk becoming a monster even by accident.

You?

Well, that's your decision.

And you’ll have to make it.

But if you’re asking for advice, then my answer is this: Don't.

If you don't like my advice, then you shouldn't have asked for it.

Then again, if you’re asking, you really don’t understand the question.

And you really, really should.

110 comments:

  1. Beautifully written, and in line with the things this vet told his son when this question came up.

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    1. This: "You see, my word, once given is good. No exceptions.

      So I don't give it lightly. And as such, I could not in good conscience swear to obey the orders of this President, even lawful ones – not when he is enabled, encouraged, and unchecked by this Congress and an America who put these rotten faithless sons of bitches in power. I could not in good conscience follow the orders of this feckless fool of a President unrestrained by this small-minded hateful Congress. I do not believe they want to make the world a better place for anyone but themselves."

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  2. As a long time civil servant (38 years) plus 4 yrs in the Army, I fully understand your feelings and echo them fully.

    I am saddened, however, by the circumstances you describe which cause me to agree with your recommendation. Saddened and angered.

    Thank you for putting it so well.

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  3. As usual, you have articulated my thoughts better than I can. I'm proud of my time in the Coast Guard. And I was very leery when the Dept. of Homeland Security (the very name is redolent of the Third Reich) was created and the Coast Guard moved there from Transportation. By coincidence, that was the year I had 20 in. If I hadn't already decided to pull the plug, that change alone would have convinced me.

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    1. My father was a good many years retired from the Coast Guard when it was moved to the Dept. of Homeland Security. He was Not Happy.

      Mary Anne in Kentucky

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  4. Any one who reads everything you post and understands it would not be surprised by your answer.

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  5. I imagine you and my father, a retired career Army officer with 3 tours in Vietnam, would share interesting conversation. I don't always agree with you 100%, but I'm honored to read your thoughtful and explicitly explained views and insights. My family has been military back to before the Civil War, right up to now, but not this next generation. We no longer want our grandchildren and greatgrandchildren to be sacrificed for the corrupt and perverse "government" this president is effecting. We would all stand for our country, but he is a blight on the USA.

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  6. I remember back in senior year of high school and being recruited by the army. That was heady stuff to me. I was only 17 then and would have needed my parents' permission which they would not allow. But I was overcome by the feeling of having the Army calling ME at my home, calling and asking me if I would serve in special forces.

    Way back then I had a talent for learning languages fast and well with a native's accent. I was told I'd be away from the battles and the bombs. I'd be "special" and I'd be in an office translating and interpreting. My parents never gave me a compliment in my life and here was the US Military telling me that I was special! But I went on to college and, a few years after graduating I was disabled.

    Leap forward several decades and I had a friend who had served in the army. It had been her job to work training specialists like what I had been promised. She had also served and retired. What I never, never considered back when I was being baited was what other things people with language talents were doing, things like intercepting intelligence from hostiles and interpreting the words of those being tortured. Never would I have thought of that at 17 years old. Never. And that would have killed me- maybe not physically but emotionally. It would have left me a living, breathing corpse.

    Would I love to serve my country? Definitely but I don't do well with "orders". Not that I'd disobey but I question and I ruminate and I blame myself for lacking the courage to say "No" even when saying "No" is the bravest thing a person can do.

    Thanks, Jim. Maybe we would have met back then but it's much better having met this way. I'm still a little bit sane and so are you.

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    1. When I turned nineteen, I realized my government had been lying to us, the people of the U S, and that government, through Selective Service, still in effect after eleven years of "peace", held me liable to back those lies with my life. It was the end of 1964, and it looked as if the Vietnam crisis might become more like a war.

      I bought the "special" argument; the options were exile, prison, or infantry if I didn't; it was 28 Sep 66,and I was to be an Intelligence Analyst, assigned so lower than a division HQ. DoD promised I'd get the training, and I did; they didn't promise they wouldn't send me to Vietnamese Language School in Texas; they did that too. So I became an Interrogator, spending maybe 20% of my time with the Infantry, and, as you say, or do not, even more time asking, listening, and sometimes watching, sometimes in conjunction with other agencies where I was definitely not in charge, I believe your striking image of "a living, breathing corpse" gets at how I've felt since; at my best a stranger everywhere, except in a group of comrades, and at worse moments, I wonder why my Counselor, a follow Vet, recommends I read a book on the Einsatzgruppen, "Special Police" of ordinary German Social Democrats, happy not to be on the front lines, but breaking down as they round-up, and sometimes, execute, Poland's Jews. For years I wondered why "my fellow Americans"--a favorite phrase of LBJ's--don't think it's normal to identify with Hitler's obedient troops. I get seeing and not telling. In better moments I forgive this, and believe it is wise not to risk such injury with thorough consideration. Make sure of your moral foundation--we've all got one, as ill-tended as may be--and don't fuck with it.

      I didn't foresee how my life would go as I struggled to decide how to save it, and thus lost it, as the Scriptural irony goes. In many ways it hasn't been as bad as it may sound. What I want, I think, is to communicate how important and how hard it ought to be to join, and thus to second our host, Mr. Wright. And to suggest even a very careful reading of a contract cannot predict its implementation, so be wary of whom you trust, but trust we must, or die.

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    2. My brother enlisted as an 18 year old fresh out of high school. The Navy helped make him the amazing man he is today, but it also damn near killed him, and not through battle, but through abuse when he did dare say "no" to his CO. He wasn't willing to risk the lives of fellow soldiers by okaying the release of a machine that wasn't yet safe. His CO made sure he paid, and paid, and paid for that disobedience, even though it was absolutely the morally right thing to do.

      My brother is still glad he signed up, while the rest of the family is just glad he got out. (He's pretty happy he got out, too.)

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  7. Thank you Jim for another well thought out critique based on your experiences then and a clearer perception of reality now.

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  8. I came of age when the Selective Service was still drafting young men to fill the swelling ranks in Vietnam.

    My then still living grandfather who drove ambulances in WWI and my father who served as a PM2 on a hospital ship all the way across the South Pacific and eventually into Sasebo Harbor less than a month after the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki both agreed with my decision to serve in a NON military capacity.

    Even then it was a different country, different war than theirs. My dad too said that when you put your hand up and swear the oath you were afterwards subject to the decisions of "politicians and other scoundrels".

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  9. My child is in the Navy and about to finish their service. After the election i advised them to bail out as soon as their enlistment was up. As proud as i am of their time in the service, i hope that they get out before anything really hits the fan.

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    1. Mine too. He's in until 2020, and he's already making plans for when he's out. He did the star re-enlist for the money (really, really good money), but for a variety of reasons he doesn't think he wants to continue after that.

      If I'd known where we were going to be today, I would have encouraged him to get out at the end of his original 6 years. Now I worry. A lot.

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  10. Well done Warrant,.. 26 years, Master Chief, I couldn't agree more!

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  11. I get it. I was a proud teacher with many years of excellent service. If someone asked me today if they should become a teacher- my answer would be a straight up NO.

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    1. At the very least they need to absolutely KNOW what they're going into. Back in the late 80's I wanted to be a teacher, but between one thing and another it didn't happen. I've been a substitute teacher for over 12 years now and I'm FINALLY in a position to get my degree and a teaching license.

      I'll be getting my license in North Carolina - we're not the worst but we're working pretty hard to get there. Even after being on the inside, and seeing what teaching today really entails, it's still my dream. But if someone going to college straight out of high school asked me if they should teach, I would probably tell them no. The way things are right now, I see young teachers being sucked dry in a system that sees them as disposable. I'm older, wiser, and meaner, and I know what to expect, but if I were younger and had less life experience I think it would kill my soul.

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    2. I was coming along to say this, but you said it first. I’m sad to see what’s happening to teachers.

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    3. NC Narrator,
      my son is one of those idealistic young teachers. His first year nearly killed him. He still teaches, but it is overseas, where teachers are respected. And paid respectably.

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    4. I agree. After 34 years (mostly full-time, a few years part-time)as an educator, if anyone asked me if they should become a teacher, I would strongly encourage them to consider other options.

      Freckles

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  12. My ex-Army wife agrees. Her word is her bond, and her oath to serve was bone deep. No way could she serve now, even allowed to serve openly.

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  13. Thanks, Jim. I couldn't agree more. I was a DoI employee for 30+ years. I was fortunate to be able to retire before 45 came about. And I thought I saw it all before him. From Carter to Obama ... there's nothing in my experience that compares to this time and place with these fools in charge.

    Mike H

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  14. Far too many people do not think it all the way through. I'm continually impressed by your thoughtfulness.

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  15. Whipped this one out in a hurry, did you? As usual you make a clear point of a complex issue. Unfortunately, the majority of young adults looking to join up lack the maturity and educational background to fully understand your meaning. We can only hope the travesty currently in the White House is ousted before things reach this point.

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    1. "the majority of young adults looking to join up lack the maturity and educational background to fully understand your meaning" And that is why they always drafted the young who are filled with all kinds of testosterone and willingness to brave about anything and never consider the consequence. Older men and women are less likely to react in that manner. "I'm sick and tired of old men sitting around in air conditioned rooms here in Washington, dreaming up wars for young men to die in." -- George McGovern Like him or not, I think McGovern and a whole bunch more have uttered this same sentiment. And they hit the nail squarely on the head.

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  16. This former military thanks you for taking the time to explain what so many of us feel. Thank you

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  17. Eloquent and to the point...and incredibly sad. I am afraid for our country.

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  18. Several of my family members (including several prior military) are telling me the same thing you wrote here because of what you wrote here, and up until this President got elected I was considering signing up (I still am considering it after he's out.)

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  19. Sir, Thank You!

    I explain enlistment and commissioning as writing the Government a blank check, signed by you, enabling them to draw anything up to, and including, your life, your ability to do anything, your very ability to _be_.

    I signed one of those checks, back in 1967. I did it again, in 1973. I wouldn't do it for the current administration.

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  20. Well done, as always. Quick grammar check: "...they regard the lives of those them deem unAmerican to be unworthy..." I think it should be "they deem"?

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  21. Excellent piece, as always! I'm one of the many who appreciate what you do/have done.

    Proofing nits, please delete if they're inappropriate:

    Period after your third "Don't" paragraph.

    Two "about"s in the "I was no idealist." paragraph.

    Make consistent capitalization, or not, of "President" (I noted one un-capped "president," might have missed another.

    "...when I became a Chief and then an Officer and was put into a position were[where] I..."

    Well done!

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  22. 26 year Senior Chief (retired), and I'm right on the same page as you. I took my oath very seriously, and having spent a huge portion of my adult life protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States (which I still firmly believe in, and will continue to protect and defend), I am both saddened and infuriated to see it being effectively used by the current administration to wipe its own ass. Who knows what insanity those now in power will direct? I'm proud of who I was and what I did during my service, but I fear that those who join today may never be able to look at themselves in that same way, and will experience nothing but shame and regret. #NotWhatIServedFor

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  23. What concerns me are those who will willingly if not happily join the Armed Forces because of support for the current Administration and Congress. USAF 1980 - 1987

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    1. Yes, I feel the same -that and thoughts of what our military might become as a result of this...

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  24. Thank you so much for this particular essay, Jim, and your thoughtfully profound, experienced insight. Bravo.

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  25. I read the comments posted to your Twitter feed as they went up. I too am a Navy veteran (though I enlisted during the Carter Administration). Your advice you gave (Don't) clicked with me: That's exactly the advice I would give now.

    That oath or affirmation requires you to follow the orders of the President or the officers appointed over you. I am sure the overwhelming majority of officers and warrant officers are just as fine today as they were during my career, but the guy on top of the chain-of-command is not worthy of an affirmation.

    It's not about politics (Democrat or Republican president; I was in the Navy for both). It's about the narcissist in charge now.

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  26. My kid sister is leaving the Air Force this year for this very reason. She originally intended it to be a long-term career. No more.

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  27. I have never been so grateful my son was medically retired as I am, now.


    I remember that I told him, when he wanted to join, that Obama wouldn’t start a war just to posture, and I was so proud of his service.


    If he were in today, I’d be eaten alive with ulcers.


    Your article is spot on, to me.

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  28. Outstanding essay, Chief. Having served my community for 30+ years now, I would also not advise most people into going into law enforcement. In addition to many of the things you have said about the specifics of this president, of this congress, there is this: There is a change in attitude and philosophy that is going to make any authoritarian in charge of this nation very, very happy. There are too many people, in positions of authority in various components of public service, that will create the environment where a totalitarian oligarchy will thrive.

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  29. Spot on.

    My family has a thousand year history of service to preserve their freedom, on both sides of the Atlantic. There is a Medal of Honor in my extended family. Both my sons served in the USCG. The younger of the two sleeps forever in the National Cemetery. His older brother was a Mustang Officer. His first hitch was enlisted, and the second as an officer.

    When my youngest got out of school, she talked about joining the USCG to follow the family tradition, in her brother's footsteps. However, at that time it was post 9-11, and the USCG had been moved from the Treasury Department to DHS.

    We talked about it a long time, and based on what we know about the way women risk being treated, I talked her out of it. She elected to go into law enforcement instead. Later she went back to school. She wanted to serve as an EMT/Paramedic.

    Now, her tri-fold flag is on the mantel next to her brother's. She was only 26.

    But I would still advise her against joining the Coast Guard. As a civilian occupation, law enforcement and health care professionals have the option of walking out if they cannot correct a situation.

    Spot on.

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  30. Thank you, Jim, for as always you cut right down to the meat of the subject.

    I, like you, served but in the Air Force. I did some good work there, including work on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery which has now been in use more than 35 years. I'm the fifth and last generation of my family to serve. I didn't face any awful decisions like you did, but I did face sexual harassment and assault because I was a woman surrounded by men. Luckily for me, dad was an MP so I had some tools to defend myself, but it was a trying time and my dad completely understood why I decided not to go career.

    My father, a career man, would be appalled by our government today. I don't think he would have ever believed that this country would choose someone so ill-equipped to be President, or that Congress would be so complicit in tearing down vital rights and the checks and balances that have kept us a vibrant republic. My advice to those who have asked me is the same as yours: DON'T.

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  31. My only disagreement with your eloquent words, Jim, is that if decent people aren't willing to be part of the solution - be it by enlisting, commissioning, what-have-you - then there won't be anybody in uniform to stand between an imbecilic President and his orders for starting WW3. I serve as an officer today, and while his election to office made me strongly consider resigning, I realized that strong moral leadership is most necessary in a time of hooliganism.

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    1. Thank you for seeing that danger, and making a difficult choice. While I agree with Jim's advice for someone asking what they asked, it does worry me what kind of people will join willingly under this Administration, and what that will mean later on for our military and its leadership as well.

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    2. People say that their word is their bond. What do you do when you find out that you were wrong? Say you were fighting as a German soldier when you found out what Hitler was doing. Is switching sided an option? Say you were given the opportunity. If you give your word to a monster, without knowing that, are you obligated to keep your word? Too bad things are never that black and white. With our intellect it is easy to justify both sides being bad, and do what we want. After all there are humans on both sides and that makes both sides capable of bad. Life is such a strange game.

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    3. That is why my husband is still in...but it's going to be a long haul.

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  32. A follow-up question, if I may...how do you feel about the military budget (maybe not right now, but in general)? Too high, too low, about right? If you had total fiscal control, what changes would you make?

    Been reading you for years. As always, spot on!

    April

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  33. Born in 56 and grew up seeing the travesty of Vietnam. Throughout my childhood, I dreaded having to make the decision to go to Canada or be drafted into a war I thought was immoral and probably illegal. Although I received a draft number, Nixon established the all volunteer services we have now. Nope, after growing up in the sixties, military service was the last place I wanted to be.

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  34. There's a reason that there are only a small handful of military figures from the Nazi era in Germany that are memorialized, and all others stripped of any honors they'd received and buried in the proverbial backyard. There's also a reason that the German military has a doctrine that soldiers and officers have a moral obligation that goes beyond following orders blindly.

    "Ihr trugt die Schande nicht. Ihr wehrtet euch. Ihr gabt das große ewig wache Zeichen der Umkehr, opfernd Euer heißes Leben für Freiheit, Recht, und Ehre."

    "You did not bear the shame; you resisted, sacrificing your life for freedom, justice and honor."

    The day that the US military makes that part of their doctrine is the day it's safe to sign up again. Not before. This country can no longer be trusted with blind obedience.

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  35. Thank you for your service. My dad was in the Coast Guard in Alaska when I was born in 1944 and was considered a veteran when he died in 2008. I was appalled when the CG was sent to Afghanistan. Why they would be sent to a foreign country that doesn't even have a coast is beyond me. I realized how our military was betrayed by our government when they were sent to Kuwait in the first Gulf War. President HW Bush struck me at the time to sound like that nice old relative who cozies up to a child and then goes on to betray its trust by coercing it to do things that are not right and then say don't tell because Mom and Dad wouldn't understand and they would just feel bad. That's how I felt when he told the American people that we could not protest the war because it was not supporting the troops and the troops would feel bad if we protested the war. After that I have always thought of that president as Uncle George the child molester. We were all screwed over by that nice old man who betrayed our trust.

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  36. I retired after my 20 as an Army Warrant. I'm glad I knew an unlawful order when I heard it, knew how to avoid it. That was before the level of insanity we have now, and only worked when your boss wasn't bat shit crazy. You nailed it, Jim.

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  37. My husband was shot down over Hanoi and was missing for 19 years. Viet Nam returned his remains and I escorted his casket back to Minnesota where his mother was waiting for us at the airport. I have 3 grandsons who all just received their selective service notices. I am terrified by the ignorant ego driven bully in the White House and the impotent Republican congress. I would do anything in my power to keep my grandsons from serving in the military at this time. It makes me sad to feel this way. I have so much respect for people serving for us.

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  38. My husband decided to join two and a half years too soon. :-( And we are not young ones either.

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  39. I am so grateful your outlet is writting and for keeping it real.Some veterans never find a way to express or to sort out their feelings.I saw this first hand when I worked at the V A Hospital. Those who could not and did have an outlet have paid with their lives without dying.

    Back then it was mostly WW I and WW 2 vets that I worked with I was out of high school and always kept in mind that they were my age when they went to serve.
    keep up the writing your point of view is appreciated.

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  40. Another great read Jim.

    Typo at “lives of those them deem unAmerican” should be “they deem”?

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  41. Thank you. I come from a family with a long history of military service, and my beautiful daughter, is considering joining the National Guard in order to fly Blackhawks as a Warrant Officer in the Army. She already has a private pilots license to fly helicopters, and already passed testing to qualify for this with the Army, but is very hesitant to take the final step, for some of the reasons you have pointed out, as much as she would like to continue flying. I am passing this along to her. You may just have made one great decision much easier for her to make.

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    1. If it helps to have options, I know of an insurance tech company hiring pilots: they have a survey fleet of small aircraft w bases all over the US. Google Geomni or GVAir pilot. They were recently purchased by Verisk--who have ongoing big plans for the fleet.

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  42. Bravo Zulu Mr Wright. I enlisted and served and was medicalled out before your time. But I completely agree. I took the oath with my eyes open. My stepfather and uncle served, and made sure I knew what I was signing up for. In today's climate I tell any young man or woman who asks the same thing. Just not as eleoquently.

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  43. Wonderfully written (as always). But how sad you sound Jim. My heart bleeds for you and your country, watching the current govt falling like flies to a twit like trumpet. I'd offer you a cup of tea petal but British as I am, I don't think even that would help. xx

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  44. Yes sir. Retired at 22 years as a Master Chief. I make a crude joke that Reagan convinced me to kill Commies for Christ, but it is true in a kernel. The freedom to worship as you please, to see to it that the example of America should not perish but spread, that the oppression of the "other" was wrong, those were ideals I was and am 100% behind. Some of the first strikes on Iraq in 2003 were flown off the deck of the carrier I served on. That was when I realized I was no longer going to be able to continue to fight wars for nothing. That was when I knew that was my last tour. I don't regret my service, or what I sacrificed for the nation. I do not think that sacrifice is worth it today. You nailed it.

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  45. Agree, wholeheartedly. I’ve got 19 years in. I always said I’d stay in as long as they would let me, but I’m counting down the days. I cannot stay around any longer than I have to. This is not the same country I signed up to serve, and I no longer trust the leadership to make good choices or place any value on my life. My husband is also career military. We have four children. We are hoping the military tradition of our family ends with us.

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  46. I was looking at serving under Nixon and the late Viet Nam conflict. I have two brothers who were serving then. Both advised me to avoid that debacle. I took their advice.

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  47. As usual, Jim, you lay out our fears and worries clearly and brutally in the light of day. And, as usual, I wish to Hell I could disagree with it, and sadly I can’t.

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  48. Over summers at (Navy) Officer Training Command, the student population can vary drastically. As an example, a class that held 30 people with a two week gap between sessions during winter, had over a hundred people each in summer with a two week overlap. At the time (2009-10, and it could be the same now) there was no increase in staff. So some billets opened for Reservists to come help. It was a good idea in theory but they were 45 day orders and it takes about that long to qualify as an instructor, so not such a good idea in practice. Fortunately, for me, I was already instructor qualified and still had my Master Training Specialist documentation so I could bypass all of that and be up and running in about a week. I ended up being the only additional instructor that summer, got extended twice and only stopped because of the end of the fiscal year and delays in renewing the funding. The command wanted to keep me on through the end of November because several instructors would be out for required training then.

    Anyhoo.

    I got to teach in all the schoolhouses except for the Warrants. They tend not to have much use for Officers trying to tell them much of anything, in or out of a schoolhouse, for good reason.

    Anyhoo again,

    For every officer class I taught, I would ask during my first time with them, how many felt uncomfortable when they were reading their contracts. Then I said if you aren't raising your hand, go back and read it again. Granted it was too late to change their minds, but yeah, they did need to have an understanding of what they/we had signed up for and the realities that could come with it.

    As this article points out, things are incredibly different today. I also would not recommend anyone join the military right now. Which is going to be interesting as my daughter is in Norwich University, a private Military Academy in Vermont with every intention of becoming a Navy Officer herself, and has before she got to High School. I never pushed her towards it but she joined the Sea Cadets by her own choice when she was maybe 13, then NJROTC in High School, and was the CO of NJROTC her senior year. She really wants to do this.

    She won't graduate for three more years and we may have some uncomfortable talks between now and then.

    ..yay.

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  49. I went in for one reason only . . . I was bored with schooling and I wanted to jump out of planes and blow shit up. . . I did both . . . my brigade alone lost 1700+ KIA and around 10,000 WIA during the Vietnam war. . . the other day I bought a pair of tennis shoes made in Vietnam. Now we are trading partners. WTF! When are we going to learn. . . . we were young and crazy kids being led by devious old men with ulterior motives. . . . doesn't seem to me like much has changed, but it sure as hell has gotten worse over the years. . . sad . . . I'd say join up . . . nothing in this world could have taught me what those 18 months in Asia has.

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    1. " . . .the other day I bought a pair of tennis shoes made in Vietnam."
      My thoughts exactly. I bought into the crap my government was handing out until, golly gee, guess what, Vietnam was lost and all the dominoes didn't fall after all. I lost a level of trust in my government for good.

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  50. I signed my Navy enlistment papers for nuclear power in August 2008, straight out of high school and right before the economy sent a couple hundred thousand people into recruitment offices (I was in DEP until March '09 as it was, every spot in the program through the end of the year was full by the time I left for Great Lakes).

    I'll be the last person to be ashamed about enlisting or regret doing it (even though I was only out of boot camp a couple of months before preexisting medical issues sent me back to Wisconsin), but I wouldn't do it again...even my 18-year-old Fox-numbed mind knew on some level that Obama wasn't going to end the goddamn world, I wouldn't have been nearly as sure about this President.

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  51. Jim, you brought me to tears. We both joined the military in the same era and every word you wrote expressed, so very eloquently, how I would respond if someone asked me the same question. The tears I am shedding are because you reminded me of the country we once were.

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  52. Well done, echoes my perspective.
    Enlisted at 17 during the Carter administration. Like you, believed in America at the time. When my time to re-up arrived, during Reagan's first term, had lost that belief. Offered a path to a commission, offered all sorts of incentives, but the overriding fact that I'd lost faith in my CIC overrode all else.

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  53. As a Navy vet ('83-'89), I must sadly agree with your assessment, Jim. I now live two hours north of the epicenter of Focus on the Family, which has set up shop right outside the doors of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. I'm close enough to that mess to see what's happening in one branch of the military, and know what it means. Combined with this regime, who knows what what the outcome will be.

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  54. I was ending my Navy hitch about the time you enlisted. Couldn't agree more with your estimation of the Reagan presidency. I also am proud of what I did. I was a Cold Warrior on an FBM tender and took a sea trial ride on a boomer. As I slept in the spare rack bolted to the side of missile tube 3, what those submariners did for a living came into sharp focus. I heard an FBM weapons officer say that he would follow a missile launch order, then probably retire to his rack one final time with a .45 in hand. And those were the days when I thought we had rational leadership. I no longer hold that view. I substitute teach at four high schools and frequently take JROTC assignments at each, since I am a product of that program. A number of cadets seek military service. Several of their military science instructors no longer wholeheartedly encourage them to enlist. Two retired O-6s, a couple of senior EMs. As the Bush-era jingoism quagmire continues, and with our current political uncertainties, I understand and share their reticence.

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  55. This hit me in the gut. My senior in high school is dead-set on Army ROTC, even considering SMP. He says he wants to serve, to give back to his country, but what is that country going to ask him to do?

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  56. I worry that if enlistment numbers drop below a certain amount, someone in the administration with half a braincell and 45's ear will suggest reactivating the Draft. Especially if he decides he needs a 'little war' to distract the masses.

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  57. Both of my sons served after 9/11. I'm so glad that they got out of it after serving several terms, especially with this current administration in place. I have no respect or support for anyone or anything in the administration and I despise this joke of a president who is running our country into a wall. I'm proud of my sons for the service they did for their country, just as I am for anyone else who has served. But I'm afraid of the direction that this president is going to take our military and our country in. Thank you for your so very well-written piece.

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  58. I know of what you say and feel... 26 1/2 years of military and Intelligence Community service and I wouldn’t trade it for any amount of money. Well, maybe the PTSD part... But in good conscience, I can no longer advise that pathway. And that pains me because my government gave me so much.

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  59. Excellent Jim. I served 8 years in the Navy under Reagan, Bush I and Clinton. Didn't vote for two of those guys but always felt America for the most part had good intentions. I no longer believe that either. I would strongly discourage any young person I know against joining the military right now which saddens me. I got so much out of my service and it made me a better man.

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  60. Again you have perfectly stated the issue, Jim Wright. I joined the Coast Guard in 1968 and entered boot camp exactly 30 days after my eighteenth birthday. I didn't enjoy my time particularly but then, and especially now after years of reflection, I was proud of the mission I served. In addition to other areas such as aids to navigation our primary function was search and rescue. In other words, saving lives not taking them. Once the Coast Guard came under the umbrella of Homeland Security I knew that the mission would change and I was not wrong. I wonder how many active Coast Guardsmen will be proud of their service once they have been made to act against U.S. citizens?

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  61. As always a well thought out, well stated post. It shakes me to the core to think about the power this current administration and government wield on a daily basis. Each day I realize we as a nation are losing a grip on world reality and stepping into all those shoes of the nations we fought against for th past 240 years. Shame on us, and I pray for our youth because we are leaving them a country that is in shambles.

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  62. I served under four of the last five presidents. I am so glad I retired before the fifth one got elected.

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  63. This:

    "So, before you hold up your right hand and swear your oath, you need to think about what that could mean for you personally.

    Particularly under this Congress and this president.

    And you need to think about it in detail. Hard. All the way through. And if you can't live with what it very well might come to, if you can’t see what it might very well come to, then don't swear that oath."

    This is what I considered, around the same time that you were taking your oath, and the reason that I decided not to go forward to take it myself. I wasn't wise enough or mature enough to have put it in these (well-considered) words, and I (obviously?) had a different opinion of how and where things were likely to go under Reagan, but still…

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  64. Well, yeah.
    And yet...
    Doesn't this mean that the military is now only suitable for those who endorse the Administration's madness and can't wait to begin busting heads, preferably those of their fellow citizens?
    Or for those who, in the spirit of the times as demonstrated by so many of the most-visible role models, stick their hands up and recite that oath with no intention of fulfilling it?

    Yeah, it's come to that, hasn't it?
    We can but hope it is a brief aberration, and that our country will soon come to its senses again. Well, maybe we can do more than hope, we can work to make damn sure it does come to its senses.

    EMH

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  65. I appreciate military experience in elected officials because they understand what it means to be at their whim. I'd probably vote for you. I have to wonder what John McCain might think of your response to this question about now.

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  66. More than once, when Jim has chosen to talk about his service, I ponder the fact that he and I are around the same age.

    He chose to serve.

    After several years of horrifying news broadcasts about the things going on in Vietnam and the Nixon administration, I decided not to. For some of the same reasons Mr. Wright has given above.

    I dunno which of us was right or wrong, justified or not. For what it's worth, Wright went and did a dirty job so I didn't have to, and I respect and honor that. But I also remember seeing evening news footage that was worse than any slasher movie, in the same broadcast that told me that my President might well be anything from dishonest to completely unhinged.

    So I stayed a civilian. He signed up.

    And I find myself wishing I could accuse Mr. Wright of something. Treason. Libel. Generalized evil evil eeeeeevil. He needs to be WRONG. He needs to be an ENEMY OF OUR COUNTRY, because only a villain would say such things.

    I find myself wishing I could believe Infowars, or Breitbart, or any of those monetized hate sites that seem to thrive on howling about how failing to clap for Trump is indeed treason.

    I can't. Wright's right. For the same reasons I had forty years back.

    It got better. The cold war ended, for one thing. And I believe America will get better.

    But we have a bit of a ways to go before we are out of the woods, in much the same way that the German people did.

    Well put, Mr. Wright.

    Still wish you were wrong, or that I could disagree with you.

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  67. One thing I've learned is that, when I'm agonizing about how to express an issue that is tearing me up, that I need to share, is just to wait a bit, and Jim Wright will express it for me so much better than I can. Thank you, Jim.

    For me, this one took the form of "what the hell would I do if I were in the service right now?" I did my Navy stuff (you could say I was a "draft dodger" - I signed up to avoid being drafted - much better deal) when, as Jim described, things still made sense. More, really. My leaders were Kennedy and Johnson, and the dangers were real. Fortunately, most of us didn't know how real the Cuban situation was until after the fact. I was scared then, but it was more fear of what the bad guys would do. Not fear of what my "leaders" might do.

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  68. I couldn't agree more with your assessment of the lack of morals and ethics of the current executive and legislative branches. I too think they are not worthy of such sacrifices as may be required.

    I do wonder about the mindset of those who ARE willing to enlist. Is the military now being seeded with a greater number of people who also possess those same morals and the kind of ethical lapses of judgement so on display daily? Those people may one day be in positions of power.

    May this administration be short lived (legally brought down of course.)

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  69. "Joining the military is (so far) still a personal decision."

    Except for many young folk, it's barely that. Rather, it's one of the few ways they see to escape a minimum wage job that does not allow them to be financially independent. It is one of the only ways that they can afford college. For some, it's one of the only ways to escape from an abusive parent or spouse. siiiiigh...

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    1. What you said, Connie. One thing that is rarely noted is that the military is one of our most successful - and only - jobs programs.

      Here in Indianapolis, I worked at a warehouse with about thirty people, and three of them had children who enlisted because they felt they had no better options. And they may have been right, given the moribund state of the economies of the small towns they grew up and lived in.

      It's an open secret. Our country has become militarized beyond all belief.

      Leroy

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  70. Thank you, very well said. I am writing with a heavy heart, because I am so scared, ashamed, and pissed off about what we have come to. I really, really resent the fact that all the political talk shows on the radio and everything on FOX news is so very right wing. They have set this up so that we will have a king before it is over. Check out the wish for a parade. And the damned cowardly Republicans are cheering him on.

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  71. I agree with almost everything you said here, Jim. However, I don't feel that it's a soldier's job to blindly follow the President's orders. Doesn't the oath the military takes say to defend the Constitution first?

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    1. Obeying the orders of the President is right in there too. Maybe it comes second, but I don't think that means it can be ignored in favor of what's mentioned first.

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  72. As I look at the Department of Immigration and Custom Enforcement it gives me the willies to wonder what kind of people can follow the orders that ICE agents carry out, apparently without thought or protest. For example http://kcur.org/post/ice-moves-rapidly-deport-lawrence-chemistry-professor-and-strip-his-legal-rights#stream/0 or https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/ice-set-to-deport-undocumented-father-whose-5-year-old-son-is-battling-cancer/ar-BBIXwvg I could not do it, I would not do it, I would have to quit the agency. In the military it would be a matter of do it or face court-martial. Hell, it would piss me off to salute Trump. Not a good place to be.

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  73. Thank you and, if you want them, my sympathies.

    One thought that comes to mind for people who want to serve: there are other ways to serve the USA than military - research, and civilian government. Activism is a kind of service, too. So are NGOs. There is a world to be saved, though our leaders do not seem to take that into account.

    The whole article has sparked some dark reflections on warfare in the 20th and 21st centuries. But I think I will save those for my own blog.

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  74. Hi Jim,

    When this Administration took office, I had less than a year before graduating with a Master's degree in Homeland Security, Cybersecurity Policy. A lot of people have asked me if I would consider serving in a Federal position, and I have considered it. Luckily, I am too old for Federal recruitment into anything DOJ related (rules out FBI agent for instance) and I don't have the Military or IT work experience that would have helped with the top security clearances. And I have terrible credit to boot. In short, I am pretty sure I would never get hired on due to my financial situation alone lol. I guess there is a silver lining to everything because my own answer to the question when I was still considering it was...I would have done it in a heartbeat for any other possible administration but THIS one. I might have considered it if we had a good, decent and trustworthy Congress in Office, but they lost my trust before Trump even got elected. But this Congress, this President, hell, even this SCOTUS is barely trustworthy and I realized a while ago that I too don't know how far down the wrong path they are going to go. Frankly, it terrifies me.

    But...there is one small bit of hope I do hang onto. Those who are in the Military and the Government before this President and this Congress, the people who do work for the many agencies under the DOD and the DOJ, I hope and pray that they will resist becoming monsters. Somehow, some way, they will find the means of not allowing an oath sworn under a saner Administration to be twisted by this one. They all have an example of how bad the wrong path could get that those Germans didn't have. And they still have each other.

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  75. You may not be wearing the uniform any more, but you are still serving your country. Maybe more than you did before. By the time I finished your essay I had tears running down my face. I know we can't play what if. What if Jack Kennedy had lived. What if Martin had lived. What if Bobby had lived. It might have been better. It might be worse. But this sure as heck isn't the country I imagined I'd be living out my senior years in. I voted. I've always tried to know what I was voting for.

    Thank you for your voice. Perhaps you could put those essays in a book.

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  76. Thanks again for laying things out so clearly. I don't think many of us really thought that deeply about the oath, beyond "support and defend the constitution of the United States".

    I also served under several administrations, beginning with President Ford. the timing of my 18th birthday and the drawdown from Vietnam made my decision a relatively safe one. I did have reservations about that war. I asked respected adults whether or not we had promised to protect the South Vietnamese from the communists. They said yes. That was enough to satisfy my hillbilly conscience.

    I wasn't very politically or economically sophisticated during the Reagan administration. but I credit his military budget for making my life as a soldier better. Our crumbling housing, our rattletrap, outdated vehicles were, at last, repaired or replaced. We were on the front lines of the cold war in Europe. We knew that if anything happened, we were to be sacrificed. We also knew that sacrifice would be in defense of things we valued.

    I've been in charge of trigger happy young bucks. I've had to explain to them that the protesters outside the nuke site we were guarding were exercising rights that we were there to protect.

    I've had to explain to doubtful young soldiers that we were in the Persian Gulf as much to liberate an ally as to protect the flow of big oil and their profits.

    I'm thankful everyday that I retired before 9/11 and the Orwellian "War on Terror".

    Like some previous commenters, I'm worried that there actually will be folks who enlist with the full intention of furthering this administration's questionable agenda. I hope, that among those already in are some who got training similar to what I had. Training on how to disobey an unlawful order, or at least mitigate the impact of it. That involved asking directly, and in front of witnesses, "Sir, are you ordering me to violate the law / Geneva Convention / etc.?" but as you pointed out, those laws can easily change.


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  77. In 2002 my 20 year old son joined the Army, he was a certified nurses assistant, they told him he could become a nurse. After boot camp and some testing he missed by .5 on his test to become a nurse. He called and asked if I could get him out. Yah right no freaking way. He did 2 tours in Iraq in the door of a helicopter manning a gun and was changed forever. He is no longer the person that wants to heal people like he used to be. After his first stint he re upped for another and did Afghanistan and back to Iraq and someplace in Egypt where they had to cross over the border in civilian clothes because we supposedly don't have a base there. Basically he came back a fucked person. He hates every one, has so much disconnect from reality that he now lives on a 40 acre plot in Tennessee surrounded by barbed wire fences and motion detectors. No don't join todays military.

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  78. Hi Jim. Just started reading your blog a few months ago and I can't say enough good things about it.

    Not sure if this is the place but I think I found a typo/repeating word?

    Found it at 'I was no idealist...some I've told you about about'

    Please correct/ignore me if I'm wrong.

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  79. I'd like to add something........just a bit that may not matter to some but in addition to the things you listed, anyone considering joining up...........from the time you sign up/take the oath until the time you get your discharge papers..you're committed to all of it, 24hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Until you've experienced that, you can't understand what it means.

    And Jim.........thank you for your service, not your military service, but for what you do here. IMHO, what you do here is as important or even more important then your military service.

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  80. My step father was part of the band of brothers during world war two and wounded in Normandy. Just from how he was treated by the locals during training here in the USA he said he would never let a son of his fight for this country if he had a say. He also said that this country was using its tax dollars to pay off the leaders of countries so our rich could rape them of their natural resources. I spent 9 years in the army and would have gone with the flow if I had to, because I would have not seen a way out. Would have been looking though. I seen through the hypocrisy of it all early on. It is easy to see that there are no good guys. None of it makes any sense and then you die. Life has absolutely no meaning. We are animals with the intellect to figure out right from wrong, but many just use that intellect to justify making it better for their selves. We also have survival instincts that because of intellect are not always helpful. Love and caring are two that should be nourished. Anyway my intellect tells me that. When I look at how far dog eat dog has taken us, I sometimes wonder if I am right. Like I keep saying, keep ducking and just live it.

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  81. I well remember my time in service (Reagan, Bush, Clinton)... what you say about then (yes, I convinced myself then... what it seems you believed then) was what we did to justify our service. To make it palatable. The first Gulf War? Talk about unlawful! Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of myself for taking the oath... and for standing behind that oath. It takes strength to do that!

    But I also remember who I served with. The loudest and most abundant seemed always to be those who were attracted to the military for the oppponrtuntiy to engage fascist tendencies. Political discourse was impossible if you did not share a unified view with those who reveled in the unmitigated might of the US military.

    So against the backdrop of this current government, you give individuals advice not to sign up. You use the current political environment as a reason to fret about what taking an oath may mean. I worry that by discouraging courageous individuals like Chelsea Manning, we leave the government unchecked... and we open the military up to sadists without any tempering force. Think about what Abu Graib could have been like if the CIA was unchecked. Think more about what it would have been like for prisoners if Joe Darby didn’t do what he did?

    The military more than ever needs men and women of good conscience and strong moral fiber to not only take the oath but to understand that not all orders are lawful and that sometimes the battle is not with a foreign enemy across a field with a gun... but the battle is sometimes a domestic enemy in the White House with a pen.

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  82. I was approached to join the Secret Service during George W. Bush's first term in office. Desk job, they said. Interesting work. Serve your country. Do good. I talked to my Dad about it, and he asked, "Yes, but if the situation ever came up... pumpkin, are you SURE you would take a bullet for the president? For this president, for ANY president?" And that night, staring at the ceiling, I had acknowledge that the answer, deep down, was no. No, I could not. Is that a failing? Does that make me better or worse than someone who can say yes to that question? I think it just makes me different. I certainly respect someone who can say Yes to that question. I just know I cannot. The flip side of that though, is that it's my responsibility to make sure that those who do say Yes, are only put in situations where Yes is the right answer, to only elect politicians who understand the full ramifications of their decisions. I failed them this time. We all failed them this time. I desperately hope we're able to do better next time.

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  83. When I was considering wether to re-up or retire at 20 during G.W. Bush's first term, I thought hard about the future, and my place in it. I'd already returned from one rotation, and I knew I was in for a lot more, despite what Rumsfeld was saying. I didn't want to leave friends behind, but I couldn't see a good reason to stay and support what I saw as another long term body grinder. I chose to leave, even though I'd have a promotion soon after reenlistment, because I felt I could not continue to be part of what we were doing. Looking back, I believe it was the right thing for me, but I wonder what happened to to person who took my spot. Thank you for your words, and service!

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  84. Thank you so much for all the information and education you provide here. I especially appreciate it because I believe you are a very honest man, and I trust you.

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  85. I could not agree with you more on this one Jim. I served 8 yrs in the Army but like you I would not currently encourage anyone to join. At least not while the Cheetoh in charge is still running the show.

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  86. Sharing to honor one (Jim) who takes seriously his associations and actions.... I sincerely hope Jim Wright is not insulted when I share with the suggestion this is a political statement for everyone supporting Trump and the Republican agenda; not necessarily limited to those swearing an oath. I recognize service members serve at a different/higher level with a clearer duty, but we (citizens) all should understand and be prepared to live with our decisions. Too many treat politics as a game, think they are not culpable for their associations and do not take personal responsibility for their vote.

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  87. Yep. I went there back in November: http://firedirectioncenter.blogspot.com/2017/11/armistice-day.html

    I'm not ashamed of my service, but, at the same time, as age and perspective take hold I can see what you and I and all our contemporaries did not so much as "defending our freedoms" - the guys in Fulda, or in the silos, or the nuke boats? Sure. - but as acting as legionaries for whatever the Senate and the People wanted in the way of "looking out for our national interests" be those in Grenada or Panama or Lebanon or Iraq.

    And the current crew of boobs, nosies, cranks, and neo-Nazis make the Bushies, who believed they made their own reality, look like a cross between Tallyrand and George Marshall.

    So, yep. I'm with you; I wouldn't raise my right hand now if GEN McMaster carried my ruck from here to the Halls of Montezuma and kissed my backside when we got there...

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  88. I have been sharing this with due respect and suggesting Jim's message applies to all voters to consider before supporting the Trump/GOP agenda not just verbal oath taking Americans.... I add the comment/link below to reinforce “2016 was an unprecedented year for hate,” said Mark Potok, senior fellow and editor of the Intelligence Report. “The country saw a resurgence of white nationalism that imperils the racial progress we’ve made, along with the rise of a president whose policies reflect the values of white nationalists. In Steve Bannon, these extremists think they finally have an ally who has the president's ear.”
    https://www.splcenter.org/news/2017/02/15/hate-groups-increase-second-consecutive-year-trump-electrifies-radical-right
    Southern Poverty Group Intelligence Report (link below) https://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/intelligence_report_162.pdf -

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