The current President of the United States pardoned a sailor this week who had been convicted and sent to prison for violating regulations protecting national security. , He took pictures of his submarine’s propulsion compartment which is a classified area. Without knowing the particulars, it seemed to the President that the punishment of imprisonment and a discharge, in light of other government employees who also had taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution and nation, was – in this current climate – oppressive. In the last several decades, access to classified information and equipment was granted to personnel specific to their position and job; it required thorough training, a thorough personal investigation, and continued exemplary conduct. Individuals in the military who deviated from this lost their access, were subject to punishment, and in extreme cases, based on a courts martial, sentenced to prison.
Perhaps the President was taking issue with the previous Administration’s handling of cases in this regard. As we all are aware there was a former candidate for President who had a non-government server with classified information (hacked?), lied about it, and influenced those charged with investigating this breach of national security. A member of the military who intentionally broke the law by transferring secret information to Wikileaks was imprisoned, but also was given ‘transgender’ treatment, had his (her) sentence commuted and was released. An earlier contractor employee, Edward Snowden, who transferred classified information and fled to Russia, is still lauded by those who have questionable “honor”.
In 2014, both the then-President of the United States and his National Security Advisor declared a soldier returned from Taliban custody, served with “honor”. Bowe Bergdahl, was later convicted by courts martial for desertion, by walking away from his unit in Afghanistan willingly. He was given a dishonorable discharge. In these prior cases, the climate that was established by those critical of the United States and set about ‘radically transforming” the culture and laws, rewriting history, only served to embolden adversaries and weaken American respect in the world.
From the bruhaha over the prior Administration’s FBI dossiers and NSA surveillance of private citizens (then-candidate Trump’s staff), backroom deals with cash for Iranian mullahs, to the still-implausible blame game for the murder of an ambassador and security staff in Libya after Gaddafi’s overthrow, the term “honor” is not very apparent. Career service members of the United States armed forces understand it.
If we as Americans can respect each other, resolve our differences through the ballot box and offer a hand up, it can change. No human being has risen above the temptations of power, greed, lust, or other “sins”, but what is corrupting this generation is the added ambivalence to what served this nation’s unity for two centuries – family, a common language, common ideals, and a positive view of the future.
So what does “serving with honor” mean in 2018? Those of us who have served honorably know what it means. If you perform your job to the best of your ability. take care of those in your unit, treat people with respect, understand and follow authority, practice self-control, and represent the best of an American (speaking to Americans) , a person can say they “served with honor”. Those who have the added spiritual values, understand that theirs is a higher commitment but the same understanding of honor. We have raised our families to know what it means. Not everyone who has served or continues today to serve the nation, in the armed forces, law enforcement, fire and rescue services, or in the spiritual “front lines” has the same understanding, when it comes to politics, economics, or community, but those values that we trained to in the uniform of the United States still have meaning: Honor, Courage, and Commitment.