Dear Senators Obama and McCain,
First a little background, I'm a retired US Naval Officer who fought in Iraq. I was part of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Southern Watch. I spent over two decades on active duty, a bit more than you, Senator McCain. I served as both Enlisted and as an Officer. So, you'll both understand if I consider myself something of an expert on military service and veterans in general.
We veterans swore an oath: I (state your name) do hereby solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same, to obey the orders of the President and the Officers appointed over me, in accordance with Naval Regulation and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. (and as an officer: and 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."
This was a voluntary oath. As such, I and my comrades in arms swore to give our lives if necessary in the service of our country. We did not demand understanding, pity, empathy, and any other dammed thing from the citizens of the United States. Respect would be nice, but it's not necessary. We also clearly understood that our agreement with the underlying purposes of the conflicts our country engaged in was not required. We swore to obey the lawful orders of the President, whether or not we agreed with the reasons behind those orders. It is the people and the Congress' job to determine what latitude the President has when engaging in war and conflict, not ours. We go where sent, perform the missions assigned, and stay as long as ordered.
We, for the most part, do not resent this. We may not be enthusiastic about going into war, because we know better than most what the reality of war is, but we go. Because we swore to do so, because it is our duty, because it is our job, because our word is good.
Note: I cannot speak for the National Guard, their oath and their mission traditionally has been something else - and frankly if I was National Guard I would resent getting called up and sent into the meat grinder. However, I suspect that many Guardsmen feel the same as we full time veterans.
As such, you both need to understand something, and that is this:
We are not political tokens.
If you are going to be the President of the United States - and barring some unforeseen catastrophe, one of you certainly will be the next President - you need to place the needs of the country ahead of political expediency. So, with all due respect, stop attempting to curry favor and stir up political support for your individual plans by using us as a rallying point. I personally resent it, and so do many of my comrades.
If you, Senator Obama, think we should pull out of Iraq and concentrate on Afghanistan - a sentiment I personally share - fine. But do it because, as the President, you think it's the best course of action for the country, not because you want the support of the troops that would finally get to come home.
If you, Senator McCain, think we should stay the course in Iraq even if it takes the next hundred years, fine. Providing you think that is the best course of action for America, not because you can score a few points with the troops by claiming to honor their sacrifice.
Frankly, as a veteran, I have had it up to here with politicians of any stripe attempting to use us for political leverage. You both could have done a hell of lot more to support the troops, and you both could also have done a hell of a lot less. You both appear to be honorable men, each in your own way, but using those of us whom you would endeavor to lead as Commander in Chief as a token to further your agenda is dishonorable, and it should be beneath the both of you.
Knock it off.