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A Veteran Asks: What Way Forward For Our Military?

A Veteran Asks: What Way Forward For Our Military?
Retired Sgt. Maj. Harold G. Overstreet, center, the 12th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, shares a story with fellow Marines at the home of the 7th SMMC

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Guest post by Thomas Starr

Today, in this small window of time, some will call me an Asian-American – but I was born simply, an American. I was born over fifty years ago in the mid-60s, at the height of racial tensions not seen since the American Civil War, 100 years earlier. As a young person, I may have looked a little different, acted a little different and thought a little different, but from my earliest memories, I always loved being an American – always. With faults, frailties, warts and all, I have proudly loved the American dream, loved my country and loved my countrymen. I tell my kids, we are all blessed to be an American. Like me, they were born an American, they were raised an American and they will die an American.

I served 28 years in the US military, and retired less then five years ago. I served on active duty, as a reservist and as a civil servant. I never once saw or remember hearing anything about racial injustice while serving in the military. To the contrary, the one observation that I recall, was the total integration of all service members. I don’t contend that there was never or is not now, racial injustice, sleights or slurs, in isolated cases. But I witnessed a colorblind institution that promoted integrity, rewarded excellent performance, expected discipline, sought to operate as one unit and always had a singular purpose, to achieve the mission at hand. Everyone I knew was proud to where their uniform, serve the country and wear the flag on their shoulder – and most importantly, we were all trained to be warriors, first and foremost.

When I look back at my formative years, the most foundational value that was taught and that I learned about America, was to celebrate civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr’s vision. It is safe to say that people from around the world were and are emotionally moved by the historical, memorable and hope filled line, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” As historian John Meecham points out, in a single, powerful phrase for the ages, King “joined Jefferson and Lincoln in the ranks of men who’ve shaped modern America.” One monumental phrase commanding the hopes and dreams, worldwide, of all good willed people, to a better vision of man’s potential and thus linking King to some of the greatest ideas and people in all of history.

Yet, over fifty years after that remarkable speech, for better or worse, a new narrative is afoot. A giant chasm has separated Americans on the issue of race, yet again. Not on issues of what we think or do, but on what skin color you have. If you are on the right side of the debate, you’re safe. Those falling on the wrong side of the divide – time to hunker down and lay a low profile. And this narrative has now found its way into the halls of the US armed forces.

We are now told, much like the general population, that there are extremists within the military ranks. Not a few, but many. Enough so we need to stand down all of the Department of Defense for a day to re-frame all DOD members thinking on race issues. To be frank, I never saw that. What I saw was America’s finest, patriotic, hard working, well educated, dedicated young people who loved the country and wanted to serve. I was proud to be associated with all of my fellow servicemen. They, like me, always had a great appreciation for the blessings of freedom and liberty which they have been freely given. Race was simply not an issue.

Yet no nation, group of people or individual is perfect, and as the French political philosopher and historian Alexander de Tocqueville observed, “the greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.

”Prescient, as America addressed the “original sin” of her founding with an unthinkable civil war which cost hundreds of thousands of casualties and lives, unthinkable tragedy and mass destruction.

Yet now, as in the society, somehow, there is a notion in the military ranks that certain Americans are to be judged by their skin color. The introduction of “diversity, equity and inclusion” is linked to Critical Race Theory (CRT). Today, the target that is condemned today is the middle aged, heterosexual, white male – the implication is that they are racist, no questions asked. But who will the left target next?

In the past, even if you had racist thoughts, beliefs, speech or actions, it was the act that you were judged upon. For who can tell what is in ones heart? If hatred or biases was a part of someone, it was always actions that counted. Civil rights laws slowly worked their way into our politics, legal system and society. This was righteous and just, as there has always been the hope that everyone had the ability to correct, reform and change ones heart. But now, those advancing new theories on race report that it is in everyone’s DNA. They advance the idea that privilege should be recalibrated to benefit the unprivileged, and the privileged are somehow racist. Yet the worst thing a person in our society could be labeled is a racist. Despicable if true, and yet the label inflicts even more pain to an individual if untrue.

How does this play out? As the neighbor, a retired school principal recently said, “I never thought of people’s skin color before, until now.” Everyone is now separated into categories. And this affects our youth too. My middle school aged daughter just recently had her black teammate say she is discussing the issue within her family. “Some people may call me a monkey,” she said. My daughter replied, “yeah, you’re a monkey.” She tensed up for a second, but then laughed. My daughter had no idea what that comment may have meant. Girls that age still possess an innocent outlook, more concerned with sports, having fun and the firsts sign of acne, not social justice. Like I tell my kids, you cede power to someone else if you let their inflammatory statements offend you. The affects of identity politics clearly affects the old and young.

The military leadership has responded to all this with extremist down days. It’s worth recalling that the finest fighting force the world has ever seen often hones those skills by placing servicemen into near like combat simulations. And the same surely holds for combat missions as well. But the one and only saving grace in any of those situations was your brother standing with you. You make it through to the other side because you are a well trained unit, working together for a common mission and most importantly, you are a “band of brothers.” As the code of conduct states: “I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.” The code also mentions, “I will never surrender,” “I will resist by all means,” “ I will keep the faith,”and “I will make no oral or written statement disloyal to my country.” We produce warfighters to deter war, protect America and to keep the peace – but to be honest, the business of our America military is nothing but extremist.

I entered military service career at the height of the Cold War. An era that found two nuclear superpowers squared off in a high stakes challenge to secure their political philosophy. Since I retired, our country has begun the pivot from Europe and Central Asia to the Far East and the Pacific. The sights are on a new and different enemy, yet the same ideology, Marxism.

While in college, a fascinating yet dispiriting interview took place in of all years, 1984. Edward Griffin sat down with Soviet defector and former KGB asset named Yuri Bezmenov. In six minutes, Yuri revealed the grand strategy in annoyingly simple terms, “We will take America without firing a shot.

“We do not have to invade the United States, we will destroy you from within.” The plan, ideological subversion and psychological warfare via the slow process of brainwashing.

Yuri warned that a free society falls in four stage, and that stage one is Demoralization, which takes up to 15 years and infiltrates and educates an entire generation in Marxist ideology. Stage two is Destabilization, where the economy, foreign relations and defensive systems are systematically compromised. Crisis is the third stage, where a violent change of power, structure, and economy are experienced in a short period of time. Normalization is a cynical word used by Marxists for stage four, where a period of stability emerges until a follow on crisis.

So where are we in this process? I could argue that 2020 was the worst year in the modern era. A time of a worldwide pandemic, full scale economic shutdown, near depression, stock market crash, “peaceful protests,” toppled statues, looting, burning and most discouraging, our sick and loved ones dying alone. Are we in stage two, three or four?

I have always been supportive of the US armed service members. I have asked this exact same question countless times to various retirees and veterans over the years. What do you miss most about your time in the service? Not sure if I have ever heard a different answer, but for me and almost all those who I have ever heard answer the question, they often answer with glassy eyes, reminiscing of their unique military experiences, it will almost always be the people, the esprit de corps, or as we call it, the unit. “I miss the old unit, my close friends that I made, the people that I met, my brothers.”

We now have a choice – pursue the vision of America as seen in Ronald Reagan’s “city on the hill,” filled with hope and possibility, or we may continue down a path that further divides and leads to weakness. Recall the oldest and simplest military maxim, divide and conquer. The military that I remember always pursued unity.

Our founding motto, E pluribus Unum, out of many one, is worth considering today. It means different things to different people, but to me, it is why I love America. It means, out of many religions, ethnicities, shapes, sizes, viewpoints, the America I love, is one. We are united, as in the United States of America. I have four children. Over fifty years removed, I shockingly find myself echoing King’s exact words, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

To our military leaders and to my fellow Americans, we have a choice. As our sixteenth president, the man who history will always remember as the person who freed the slaves, president Abraham Lincoln so succinctly stated, a “house divided cannot stand.” In his Gettysburg Address, he stated, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.” What way forward, my fellow servicemen, chiefs and fellow Americans?

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1 comment

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Vetmike April 14, 2021 at 5:21 pm

Okay, kick out the ‘extremists’ and all you have is the entitled, whiny brats who will fold if faced with a real threat. Meanwhile, the ‘extremists’ will be out here in Patriotland. Guess what happens next.

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