There are very few organizations in a country that are as important as the men and women who wear military uniforms and lay their lives on the line for their comrades-in-arms and their country. America is no different and the professionalism our soldiers exude is equal only to their bravery and selflessness. Unlike many third-world countries where the military’s loyalty to a leader wavers depending on the strength and politics of the leader, our military is an all-volunteer force and soldiers often serve under more than one commander-in-chief during their enlistment, but because of their professionalism, their loyalty to the president is the same as to their generals and officers.
The latest entrant in the Republican field to seek the nation’s highest office and title of commander-in-chief apparently has little regard for the men and women who wear the uniform. Texas Governor and secessionist Rick Perry slandered our soldiers day before yesterday when he was in Iowa to promote himself as god’s anointed choice to lead the country. Perry told an audience that, “One of the reasons that I’m running for president is I want to make sure that every young man and woman who puts on the uniform of the United States respects highly the president of the United States.” For Perry to question the professionalism of our soldiers shows the level of contempt he has for their dedication as well as the level of arrogance from a man who has broken his oath of office on several occasions.
Perry’s dedication to the Constitution and this country are suspect for his charge that Amendments are mistakes, and his repeated statements that secession is a viable option to following federal laws he disagrees with. It is possible that because Perry has broken his oath of office, he thinks that members of the military are as disloyal to this country as he is. Every soldier takes an oath that is similar to the one Perry has broken when he calls for secession or decries amendments as mistakes. In the oath a soldier takes, they swear to support and defend the Constitution that says in Article 2, Section 2 that “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States.”
Unlike Rick Perry, members of the armed forces fulfill their oath out of allegiance to the Constitution, and obey their commander-in-chief regardless of his political affiliation because they are highly professional. For Perry to suggest that soldiers do not respect the president is troubling beyond questioning their professionalism. If it is not a slur against the military, it is questioning the loyalty of the military to a civilian leader. There has not been a president who concurrently served in the military in the modern era so every commander-in-chief has been a civilian. If that was Perry’s insinuation, then if he won the presidency the military would not respect him either. If the assumption is that the military can only respect a president who has served in the military, it still questions their professionalism.
Perry’s statement says he does not believe the military respects the president and it is highly offensive coming from a man who is not the commander-in-chief. A leader of a veteran’s group, VetVoice said that Perry had, “smeared the professionalism” of the troops. The man, Richard Allen Smith continued saying, “American troops are perfectly capable of disagreeing with the policies of a President and still holding respect for the office of Commander-in-Chief. For Rick Perry to suggest otherwise is nothing more than a below the belt smear against their professionalism.” Today’s soldiers are so highly professional that they have rules of engagement that they follow in the face of overwhelming danger to themselves and their comrades, and for Perry to suggest that they cannot disagree with a president’s policies and still respect the office is ludicrous and shameful. The military has more reasons to respect President Obama than any Republican for the good things has enacted in their behalf.
President Obama has increased the defense budget even though his supporters have raked him over the coals for not drastically cutting defense spending. He has also increased spending for veterans as well as proposed tax incentives for businesses that hire veterans. Because of the increased occurrence of PTSD and traumatic brain injuries in veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, the president proposed increased funding to treat those injuries in February 2011. Conversely, Republicans’ spending cuts prevent 10,000 low-income veterans from receiving housing assistance. The Republican cuts to veterans is especially heinous because there are about 135,000 veterans in America who are homeless through no fault of their own. President Obama proposed hiring more claims workers and improve their training and accountability so “VA benefit decisions are rated fairly and consistently.”
The president also announced new initiatives to aid veterans ranging from a “Returning Heroes Tax Credit” for businesses that hire unemployed veterans, increased funding for “Wounded Warriors Tax Credit” for veterans with service related injuries, and calling for military training that ensures every member of the military has training and credentials necessary to transition to civilian jobs or to pursue higher education. More importantly, the president extended the transition period to give military personnel more counseling and guidance to prepare them for civilian careers. The president also travels to Dover Air Force base to meet fallen soldiers’ caskets; something his predecessor, George W. Bush never did. If Perry’s insinuation is that service members cannot respect a civilian who did not serve, then the military must have absolutely despised Bush for avoiding service as well as the way he treated the troops.
Our military deserve the highest regard for their sacrifice and commitment to our country and the Constitution, but they do not deserve to have their professionalism called into question by anyone whether they were anointed to be president or not. The level of arrogance on Perry’s part that only a white evangelical Christian is worthy of respect as president shows his ignorance regarding the professionalism of our troops. President Obama has done more for the troops than Republicans and it is sad that the measures he initiated to help veterans were not in effect in the first place. There are a multitude of reasons to despise Rick Perry, but disrespecting the soldiers who serve is near the top of a very long list of outrages. Perry’s calling into question the lack of professionalism of our soldiers tells Americans that he is projecting his own lack of professionalism on our fighting men and women. The last thing America needs is a president who doubts the commitment of our troops and the high level of professionalism they display each and every day; a level of professionalism Rick Perry will never attain.