Veteran’s Day Reflections From a Civil Libertarian Former Soldier

In the past few weeks, I’ve spent considerable time, far more than usual in fact, reflecting on what Veteran’s Day means to me both now and at different times in the past decade. Before joining the military, Veteran’s Day for me was what I imagine it to be for most Americans: a day to recognize the service that a portion of our population volunteered for and to thank the veterans and active duty service members I knew for serving and risking their lives for our country.

While I was on active duty, Veteran’s Day was mostly a time to tune out the noise and check in on fellow soldiers at home and abroad. During this time, I developed a tradition of calling at least three soldiers I had served with each Veteran’s Day to say hello and see how they were doing.

I have now been out of the Army for nearly four and a half years and, in many ways, the day has taken on increasing significance with each passing year. This year in particular, the day has taken on increased meaning in light of the initiatives coming out of the White House and the broader political climate.

Earlier this year, I wrote about about the Trump administration’s unnecessary and immoral ban on transgender soldiers. As I explained then:

“History has proven time and time again that restrictions against certain groups joining the military, such as African-Americans or Japanese-Americans, are self-defeating. The results of lifting these arbitrary restrictions have always been the same. The reasons given for the restrictions never came to fruition, were based on fear and prejudice, and the military was ultimately stronger based on a swell of new applicants and diversity in its ranks.”

Trump’s trans ban is antithetical to the core tenants of the military; it is destructive to our unit cohesion and military readiness; and it is just indefensible and wrong to target transgender individuals for discrimination in the military. I have been heartened by the obstacles President Trump has faced in implementing them. We cannot rest until the ban is struck down permanently and transgender individuals who are fit and ready to serve can both enlist and be retained in the military with full and equal access to all the benefits of service that the rest of enjoy.

Today I give thanks and honor the transgender service members who not only have taken on the duties and responsibilities, risks and sacrifices of service, but who have to do so with a target on their back from their commander in chief. They have to serve with the knowledge that in an instant, all they have worked for could be taken away from them simply because of who they are.

This targeting of transgender individuals is part of a larger climate in which veterans and service members are being exploited and disrespected for political gain. Recently, the discussion of veterans has seemed to present itself most frequently in the ongoing conversation surrounding the National Football League players who have chosen to kneel during the national anthem in protest of racial injustice. Many have characterized the actions of these players as “protests against the anthem” or our country, which, to me as a veteran, is ludicrous.

The day I enlisted in the Army, I held up my right hand and swore to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” And one of the most critical rights the Constitution’s Bill of Rights guarantees is “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

There is simply no question that the right to peaceful protest is precisely what veterans fight to protect. It is woven directly into the oath we all took the day we enlisted, just like our obligation to fight for equal protection of the laws and the equal dignity of our fellow Americans and soldiers.

Today I hope others will join me in resisting the urge to appropriate notions of what it means to be a veteran. Instead, call a veteran you know to thank them for the sacrifices they made and the work they did to allow our flawed but beautiful democracy to survive. Even better, work in defense of our rights — to protest, to equal protection, to justice.

That is what it means to serve, and that it what it means to honor service.

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Anonymous

You may all edge all you want. Post the evidence in a public forum like this, if you really have it. I don’t think you do. As a matter of fact you don’t.

Anonymous

The Roberts U.S. Supreme Court threw Americans under the bus on this topic, ruling warrantless domestic spying victims must prove they were spied upon. Warrantless Domestic Spying sounds passive and harmless but it destroys innocent Americans usually resulting in premature death.

Longterm warrantless domestic spying devolves into defamation of innocent Americans. The local police, state officials and even federal officials are part of your community, so that defamation affects your local community also.

It's the most evil thing the federal, state and local governments perpetrate against their fellow citizens because it denies them "legal standing" in court to challenge the defamation that results from this type of surveillance.

One who is falsely accused and even imprisoned in a legitimate overt process is less evil than warrantless spying or Cointelpro style blacklisting because they can hire an attorney and have legal standing in court. Warrantless Domestic Spying victims are denied legal standing to challenge this fraudulent tactic and are literally receive a "life sentence" of government and police abuse. Since the goal is NOT arrest but punishment without charge, the victims can never get a fair court hearing in front of a judge. Since police and officials know they will never have to face their victims in court, it actually creates an INCENTIVE to abuse anybody they want for whatever reason they like - since they never plan to confront their victims in front of a judge.

Some, not all, police and other officials can easily use this lack of judicial oversight to punish perfectly legal First Amendment activity by groups like the Tea Party, Black Lives Matter or any group they please. They know they will only have to show their cards if placed in front of a judge - so they bypass the Judicial Branch altogether.

Dr. Joseph Goebbels

Who would want to be a veteran in America ?
Draft dodgers like Clinton, Bush Jr., and Trump get to be president, and the people who served and suffered for their country McCain and Kerry get corn holed.

Anonymous

I like winners. These people that got captured didn’t fight hard enough. Give me death or give me liberty. Not two defunct arms I can’t raise. Ooooooooooo. Take that.

Anonymous

I served my country, because I love the U.S. and did my part defending it. Still do after 35yrs. But with trump as C-N-C, I would never have joined, he's a dangerous man-child. And trump is building up for war. Not good.

Anonymous

"tenets" please
"tenants" are renters
"tenets" are fundamental principles

Ray Stevens

Veteran's day is nothing more than a false honoring of those who served. The government has a long and sordid history of neglecting and depriving veteran's who have served and become injured from that service. Veteran's Day is as much an irony as the American flag politicians wear on the lapel of their 2000 dollar Armani suits. Ever notice that mostly the only people who get the day off to honor veteran's who have served are government employees. That tells you what capitalists and corporatists think of veterans.

Anonymous

Let’s do Ray Stevens day where only cynical assholes who did nothing for their fellow man day? Yeah let’s do that.

And you know what, fuck veterans. I’m one and I say fuck me. We think we’re so special that we need our own day. I mean shit! You’d think Jesus gets his own day and he didn’t do shit but die.

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