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Unclear on the Concept of “Veteran”

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has expressed an opinion that the recent internet movie released by a group comprised of former members of the intelligence services and special operations forces is not “useful”.  He also said that he believes that the military should be apolitical, and that by coming out against the president, these people endanger the trust the American people have in their military.

With all due respect to General Dempsey’s service and position, as a proud veteran, he can take his opinions, fold them until they’re all corners, and then hide them somewhere distasteful.

I do agree that military personnel should not use their affiliation with the military to help any political cause, and I support regulations that forbid soldiers from criticizing the civilian leadership while on active duty.  The soldier who got on stage with Ron Paul in uniform was wrong.  An officer or NCO who trash talks the President in such a way that brings discredit to the armed services or gives the appearance that the military either supports or opposes any given administration or policy deserves to be punished.

But once you take off the uniform, either as a reservist going back to every day life or as a veteran who is hanging up the uniform, those restrictions loosen.  While I still don’t support wearing a uniform at political events, any other legal activity by a veteran, including vociferously and effectively rebutting the president, any president, is fine by me.

You see, those who have worn the uniform can have a unique perspective on the events of the day.  If you’ve seen true poverty in Haiti, you might have some thoughts on the ‘poor’ here at home. If you’ve seen the waste and fraud that the bloated federal bureaucracy creates and enjoys, then you might be a good candidate for someone with a valid opinion on how to cut and clean up the government.  And yes, once you’ve worn the uniform, if you choose to oppose the foreign policy and war plans of the United States, that is your right, although your right to protest doesn’t protect you from derision if your tactics include casting unwarranted aspersions on the integrity and honor of those you served with or those still serving.

We veterans who participate in and comment on politics are following a great American tradition.  We have had 24 presidents who have worn the uniform, and many of them were combat veterans.  Was our country done a disservice because these veterans chose to become part of the political process once they hung up the uniform?  Many of our best journalists, the part of our society that is supposed to be keeping the government honest by throwing a little sunshine on that which it wants to hide in the dark, have been veterans.  Should they be silenced because their voices make the political leadership uncomfortable?

General Dempsey, the phrase that keeps running through my mind is “Stay in your lane”.  Your mission is to provide leadership to our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, and to provide advice to the President.  You seem to be quite adept at that, and I thank you for your efforts.  But those of us who no longer fall under your perview have a right and a responsibility to speak our minds and call out the government when it does wrong.  Our opinions and our voices are no longer in your lane.  If you want to keep the active military from becoming politicized, then stop using the press to defend the President and his policies.  That is also outside of your lane.

The fact that those who served the country were the instruments of political policy makes us sensitive to the outrages of that policy, and we have much to bring to the table once we close that chapter of our life.  We are no longer bound by the regulations and traditions that kept us out of the political arena, we are locked and loaded, and we are watching our lanes.



  1. Well said!!! 🙂


  2. +1 on NFO’s comment!


  3. Exactly.


  4. +1!


  5. Thanks guys!


  6. Absolutely.

    And I might remind General Dempsey that he is no longer in our chain of command–but that we are most definitely in his.



  7. Saweet!


  8. Bubblehead Les

     /  August 24, 2012

    As a Navy Veteran, I swore an Oath to Protect the CONSTITUTION, not the President. As a Civilian, my EMPLOYEE Dempsey should SHUT UP himself and not try to tell me what to say. Part of that Oath reads “….Enemies, both Foreign AND Domestic.” Any time I’m told that one can’t say anything about My Employee the President that isn’t a Threat, then I wonder if that Person wants to join the Short List.


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