The Paradox of military service

Today’s refusal of the Supreme Court to rule against this administration’s transgender ban got me to thinking about the paradoxes of military service. It wasn’t that long ago that being gay was not allowed in the military. The reasoning was somewhat along the lines of why women weren’t allowed in combat. As recently as 1948 the armed forces of the United States were segregated. African-Americans were separated from white units because they were judged inferior and likely to affect the combat readiness of our forces. In the past seventy years we have come to realize how ignorant that way of thinking was. When I served in the United States Navy in the 1970’s being gay was not an option. There were gay sailors and when they were outed they were summarily discharged dishonorably. As if one’s gender or sexuality could negatively impact the battle readiness or quality of one’s work.

Recently the current administration wants to ban transgender service members from serving. I think its ironic that a person who was unwilling to serve and went to great length to avoid military service would now take issue with the gender of the members of our military. Members of the military take and an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic. Many of those who take the oath find themselves in harms way and some actually end the lives other human beings in the being true to that oath of enlistment. There is no religious or moral tradition that legitimizes murder yet that is often the result of military action. At the same time we hold members of our armed services to much higher standards than the general public. The paradox is while protecting the life of the country service members are often required to end the lives of the enemy. While that may be an expedient for a country it is hardly a moral act by anyone’s definition.

By what sophistry does this administration operate that they would deem that one’s gender determines one’s patriotism or readiness to serve the country in our armed forces. This action has done irreparable damage to the morale of our armed forces at a time when we can ill afford such an affront. I hope that this ruling is challenged and overturned in our courts.

I challenge you..

A couple of weeks ago following my nephew’s graduation from Recruit Training at Great Lakes Naval Station I approached my nephew and told him I thought that national service would be a good thing for most Americans. I thought we’d have a little less self-absorption if more of our fifty and under crowd actually served something other than their own narrow agendas. Tom agreed and said, “Uncle Don I just said the same thing to Dad.”  I hear a lot of talk from many of my younger friends and even from some of the older ones of supporting the troops, but I want to know what have you actually done. I therefore challenge this new generation of Americans to join up. Go Navy! Go Army! Go Marine! Go Air Force! Go Coast Guard! Do something don’t just talk big, walk big too. If you can’t actually join, find a military person that you can write to. Find out if they need money for their family and send them some cash. Ask for nothing in return.

I gotta go now.., but you think of what you can do to help our young women in men and uniform and better yet become one yourself. Patriotism is more than waving the flag, it’s about carrrying it too. Show your gratitude by what you do, not what you say.

Three generations

I put together a short video of pictures of my uncle, my Dad, myself and my nephew in uniform. That’s three generations serving the United States of America in uniform. My uncle was the lone Army veteran. Dad, Tom and I went Navy.   Animoto is a really interesting Web 2.0 site that allows you to create short or long videos and it has gateways to Flickr and Picasa.

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My recent written conversations with my nephew, reading The Promise of Paradox and my reflections on both of those have lead me to believe that being a warrior at one time is a necessary experience that lead me to the path of peace. A number of my favorite Psalms including Psalm 63 and Psalm 91 are definitely written by a warrior. St. Francis of Assisi was a warrior too. I’m beginning to think that one cannot truly love peace nor work for it until one accepts the warrior in our hearts. I was never in combat, but I was in the military and I really loved my time in the military. I still get goose bumps when I see certain displays and I’ve felt a special affinity for members of the armed forces ever since I was one myself.

I’ve noted too that many of the apologists for our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan have never served in the military, they’ve never been warriors and that is the missing piece for them. I believe that this warrior phase is necessary and until it’s embraced and celebrated a man can never be whole. One cannot be peace until one has been at war. I cannot experience redemption until I have been a sinner and the most powerful redemptions are the fruit of the biggest sinners. It all belongs.

You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,Say to the LORD, “My refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust.”God will rescue you from the fowler’s snare, from the destroying plague,Will shelter you with pinions, spread wings that you may take refuge; God’s faithfulness is a protecting shield. You shall not fear the terror of the night nor the arrow that flies by day, Nor the pestilence that roams in darkness, nor the plague that ravages at noon. Though a thousand fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, near you it shall not come. You need simply watch; the punishment of the wicked you will see. You have the LORD for your refuge; you have made the Most High your stronghold. No evil shall befall you, no affliction come near your tent. For God commands the angels to guard you in all your ways. With their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the asp and the viper, trample the lion and the dragon. Whoever clings to me I will deliver; whoever knows my name I will set on high. All who call upon me I will answer; I will be with them in distress; I will deliver them and give them honor. With length of days I will satisfy them and show them my saving power.

–Psalm 91

Counter to God’s law?

“We need to be very precise then, about what I said wearing my stars and being very conscious of it,” he added. “And that is, very simply, that we should respect those who want to serve the nation but not through the law of the land, condone activity that, in my upbringing, is counter to God’s law.”–General Peter Pace.

I want to know where in God’s law it says that killing your fellow man is moral. Continue reading “Counter to God’s law?”