Posted by: Michelle Knoll | June 13, 2012

Why do We Dishonor Honor and Discourage Duty?

I spent Monday driving my sons and a friend of theirs to OpSail 2012 in Norfolk.

We toured only one ship.

The USS Fort McHenry

The USS Fort McHenry

It was worth the seven to eight hours of driving time, getting there and back home.

We were able to experience the U.S.S. Fort McHenry, a Whidbey Island class “dock landing ship.”  I say “experience” instead of “tour” because since our tour group was small (6 total), we were afforded the privilege of spending more time with the sailors and Marines on board.  I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation with all of them, and learned a lot from the sailors’ descriptions of their tasks on board.  Some of them were old enough to be facing retirement (though they didn’t look that old, I assure you) and some were just getting started on their military career.  When one Marine was asked if he planned on staying in the military once he had fulfilled his first term, his quick reply was, “Oh, yes Sir!  I plan on staying in for life.”

We spent two hours on this ship, asking questions, discussing the different capabilities of the ship, and the roles these men and women play as part of the defense of our nation and of freedom around the world.

I left the ship very excited, very moved, and also very troubled.

Do you have any idea the advances in military technology that we’ve accomplished in the last decade or so?  The missiles we can fire now are unbelievable.  Their speed and accuracy is amazing.  And there’s one “gun” this particular ship uses for a defense mechanism, which puts up a “wall of lead” — rounds of ammunition at frightening speeds — so that whatever is coming toward the ship, be it bird, plane, rocket or missile, it can’t get through, and the ship with its sailors and marines is kept safe.  There’s also another device that is used for counter measures that is just incredible.  I walked through the entire ship, making usually only one comment:  “Wow!” 

My heart was deeply touched by the passion of these fine young men and women.  Their dedication to doing an excellent job, every day, was more than evident.  Their attitude was, “the success of this vessel depends on ME.”  And it made me wonder:  what would happen to our country, to our towns, to our schools and our churches and even our homes, if we all took that attitude?  I was impressed, yes.  But I was also humbled.  How short do I fall of this passion to excel, every day of my life?  May God help me do better.  Please, God, help me do better!

And I told one of the sailors as we were leaving, “If I were still young enough, I would enlist in a heartbeat.  Absolutely.”  And I meant it, too.  The opportunity to serve one’s country, to serve for the cause of peace in the world… how I wish I had made that choice so many years ago.  And of course I can do things now to preserve peace and to bring peace, but it’s not the same as being a part of the world’s greatest military.

And yes, we are still the world’s greatest military.

But most of us don’t see it that way.  And this is what troubles me.

Most of these sailors and soldiers will never — and I mean never — be thanked for what they do.  Not by their communities, and not by our nation as a whole.  Oh, yeah, sure.  We have Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day and we cook out and have fun.  But, as a whole, our nation doesn’t have a clue what these men and women do for us.  Not a clue.

And, as a nation, we don’t appreciate them, either.

Do we teach our children what the military does for us?  Do our kids learn about them in school?  Do we pray for them on a daily basis?  I’m not talking about a prayer on Veteran’s Day, or Memorial Day weekend.  I’m talking about heartfelt prayers for their protection, for their morale, for their budgets even!  Do we stop and think about what they do each day, just in their routines?  No, we don’t think about them.  And we don’t teach our kids to think about them.

Do we brag on our military at all?

They fight for freedom, most of the time in very far off places, so that we can be free here at home.  Because the first rule of safety is, defeat the danger while it is still far away from your front door. 

But a lot of us in this country don’t want our kids fighting for freedom.  Not here.  Not anywhere.  We want them to be here, safe with us, eating potato chips and playing video games and watching ballgames on TV, or better still, devouring hour after hour of the plethora of “news” channels we have on cable, just like we do.  We want someone else to take care of freedom.  We don’t want our kids to have the honor.  We don’t believe they should carry the duty.

Honor.  Duty.  Words that we don’t use much any more.

Do we even know what they mean?

Maybe you already knew the definitions before you read my post.  But I looked them up, because I wanted to make sure I knew the correct meanings.

“Duty”: an act or course of action that is required of one…. a moral obligation.

“Honor”: principled uprightness of character; personal integrity.

See, somehow, we’ve taught our kids that they have a moral obligation to do what is right, but we’ve left out the part about defending one’s country.  It’s Washington’s responsibility to defend us, right?  Well, with what?  If they don’t have our kids as soldiers to do the defending, then what do they use?

And we want our kids to be upright in character, sure!  And we want them to have integrity.  To “do the right thing in school.”  But, after school, after they’re grown and they’ve left our houses, and they’re out on their own, then what?  “Well, integrity means you don’t cheat on your taxes… much.”  And, “being upright in character means you don’t drink too much at the bar on Friday night, and you don’t party too hard, and you make sure to mow your lawn when you need to, and don’t yell at your kids, and don’t say too many bad words, and for crying out loud, don’t fart in public!”

Right?

But do we teach our kids to defend our nation?  Even if it means… fighting evil in the world?  Do we?

No.  Little Johnny needs to stay home and go to school and get a good job and become a good member of society.  Pay his taxes.  Be home for his wife and kids.  Drive under the speed limit.  Never take a risk.  Don’t fire a gun, for Heaven’s sake!  Those things are dangerous!

Yes, in the hands of terrorists, those things are very dangerous.

But, if little Johnny and little Frank and little George and little Greg and little Danny and little Oscar don’t go off to war, then there will be no one to fight the terrorists, and then the war comes to us.  Because evil doesn’t take a vacation.  Evil doesn’t shrink back. Evil always advances.

The only way to stop evil from advancing is for men of honor to go and fight the evil, men who believe it is their duty to do such.  Only then does evil back down.  Only then is evil conquered.

I can’t forget those men and women I met on Monday.  I mustn’t.  I have a moral obligation, an “honor” to uphold our military, so they don’t get discouraged while fulfilling their sworn duty to our nation, and to peace.

“I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” (Title 10, US Code; Act of 5 May 1960 replacing the wording first adopted in 1789, with amendment effective 5 October 1962).

“I, _____ (SSAN), having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation 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.” (DA Form 71, 1 August 1959, for officers.)

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Responses

  1. Michelle, thank you for this! Many of the men in our family have served our nation, including my son, so honor and duty are terms I’m familiar with. I try to thank the men and women God sends my way for their sacrifice. I’ve even been known to thank the moms, dads, wives and children.

    I’m with you. We need to help the people around us understand that there’s no higher calling than the service of our nation. Our freedom. Whether they fight in war or serve in peace time, these men and women are amazing people, worthy of our gratitude.

    • Thanks, Faye. Yes, they are amazing people. I was SO impressed with the ones we talked to on Monday. Of course, any time I get to speak to military personnel, I’m impressed. We have a great military!
      I appreciate you commenting. Blessings to you!

  2. I personally find this blog offensive on so many levels. Did you ever speak to someone who fought in Viet-Nam? They were spat upon, called baby killers, and still can’t get the benefits they deserve. Yes, there are still flaws, but our soldiers of today, are far more honored than they were, and they know it and are happy about. I certainly haven’t forgotten three of my friends family members are dead after serving in Iraq. These may be your own feelings, but they are not true of everyone.

    • Wow, Scarlett, thank you for posting. I’m sorry my post offended you.
      There are more soldiers and sailors in my family than I can count. Going way back, to the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and every other war, all the way up to the conflicts of the 90’s and possibly the current deployments. (I have one cousin who served within the last 15 years, but he and I haven’t talked in many years, so I don’t know if he is still in active duty or not.)
      I have cousins who served in Vietnam, and yes, you are correct. They were called all sorts of things. Disdained by a lot of the American people. But my cousins served faithfully, fulfilled their duties, and did what they swore to do when they took the oath. They understood the costs, they understood the problems with that war, they understood the attitudes of the American public.
      Scarlett, some people in this country honor our soldiers and do it well. You’re one of those people, and I applaud you for that.
      But there are those that don’t, Scarlett. There are those who would rather our men and women not be involved in the fight against evil. I hear it from a lot of people. So when I asked the question, “why do we dishonor honor and discourage duty,” I wasn’t lumping everyone in America into one basket, meaning that NO ONE in this country honors our military. I was merely speaking my thoughts, which are a reaction to the lack of support that I encounter.
      If you don’t hear that sort of talk, then consider yourself blessed.
      I’m glad that you hold our military in such high esteem and that you don’t forget your friends and the loved ones they’ve lost. This country needs more people like you. I hope you can inspire others to carry the torch well for our men and women in uniform.
      Blessings to you!

  3. Well stated. Sadly in my teens, I’d had the idea in my head that I was a conscientious objector to military service. I did however take the ASVABs (the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery), and scored highly across the board. You can probably imagine when the recruiters called and I explained why I wouldn’t sign up, they were aghast.

    My heart has changed since then. I realize now that what I was doing was grasping for an excuse to avoid facing a fear. Shortly after Beth and I were married, at 27 years old, I spoke with a recruiter to sign up for the National Guard intending to do my basic and then transfer into the regular military. Unfortunately because of some surgeries I had as a child, I was informed I was medically ineligible.

    • Ron, I too had a chance to serve. I wasn’t marked as ineligible. I turned down the opportunity. Why? Fear. Pure and simple. Fear. But it wasn’t fear of combat; not hardly. I was being asked to teach calculus at the Nuclear Power School, which was in Orlando at that time, I think. But I was afraid of not being good enough, not being smart enough, not being a lot of things. So I was a breath away of being sworn in, and I backed away from it. Told the officer I wasn’t going to do it, wasn’t interested.
      I look back and think, how stupid was that? At the time, I thought I was doing the right thing. Now, I’m not sure. But I can’t go back. So I move forward and pray that my life has significance in the direction I’m going now.
      But I praise our military, and try to remind myself every day that they’re out there, doing things that are hard and scary and sometimes very life threatening. And they need us. They NEED us. Most Americans don’t realize that. But they do! And I’m probably going to be singing that chorus for a long time. (Forgive me if I sing to the choir!)
      We don’t need to forget who they are, because they are part of us.
      Thanks for posting, Ron. I appreciate you!

  4. Hey Michelle, Great post. Here in San Diego, with US Marines, US Navy and US Coast Guard bases, I often get the chance to say “thank you for your service!” which I have done steadfastly since 9-11-01. They are almost always taken aback. One time, a police officer (let’s not forget them and our fire fighters too!) was shopping in an Office Depot. I asked if I could talk to him for a minute? He stiffened up and said yes, and when I just smiled and thanked him for his service, he almost caved in. The simple gesture of smiling and thanking these brave men and women in uniform goes a long way. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Oh, wow, Janet, yes, yes, yes! Let’s not forget the firemen and the police, who put their lives in harm’s way, every day, as well. Thanks for reminding me.
      Thanks for reading and commenting, Janet. Blessings to you!


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