As one of the roughly 22 million Americans who served, or are serving, in the nation’s military, I always appreciate when people tell me, “Thank you for your service.” My response is always, “You’re welcome,” and other than the occasional department store discount or free round of drinks, I’ve never sought to exploit my veteran status to garner any special favors.
This year is different. We are two months away from electing a new commander in chief.
One of our options includes a man who has glibly spoken about using nuclear weapons in Europe and the Middle East and seems unconcerned about nuclear proliferation by other countries simply because it is “going to happen anyway;” who fails to comprehend the deterrent effect of U.S. troops in South Korea against increasingly belligerent threats by North Korea; who would allow NATO member states on Russia’s western border to fall to Kremlin aggressions unless they “pay up;” and who has denigrated the family of an Army captain killed in action while serving his country.
This is a mercurial man who will have almost unchecked authority to put uniformed men and women in harm’s way, but whose understanding of foreign affairs and military strategy is based almost solely on his instincts rather than analysis.
I served under many commanders. Some were leaders in name only, but most deserved the title by demonstrating core leadership principles, regardless of any stress or hardship, and didn’t resort to primitive and distracting antics like belligerent shouting or chest thumping. They led by example, invited collaboration, analyzed conflicting positions and took responsibility for the decisions that ultimately fell to them to make.
When successes occurred, they praised their teams. And when events turned against them, they took responsibility and didn’t blame others or make excuses.
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower drafted a letter on the eve of D-Day which was to be released in the event the invasion failed. He wrote: “If any blame attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.” We of course know that the Allied Forces succeeded after storming Normandy’s beaches and Gen. Eisenhower praised the efforts of his teams, from the generals to the privates.