In the short time I have spent on this planet, I have had a number of jobs. All of them have had their challenges and rewards and I feel blest for having had the experiences I have had. Beyond any shadow of a doubt though, my time in the service was probably the roughest and most demanding. Raising your hand and taking the oath of enlistment is a choice to subject yourself to things most people will never understand (unless they are standing a watch nearby).
Disclaimer: I did not have as rough a time as many of my contemporaries. Some of them might even laugh at my examples and rightly so compared to the sacrifices they made. I only offer a few small things to make a point… even though you may take your life in your own hands driving to work every day, the average service member puts his life in somebody else’s hands every day for a cause greater than themselves.
The hours and the pay
When you start a new job, the hours you work are probably regulated by one thing or another. Whether it’s a union contract or federal laws that govern workplace rights, you have a pretty good idea of what your work week will look like.
A ship at sea can’t just park and hook up to some mysterious shore power on Friday afternoon. Those things need people to keep an eye on the boilers and reactors 24/7 and chances are those same people will have additional work to do when they are not on watch.
The pay has gotten better over the years. The first part of my career for instance had us making a few hundred dollars a month in exchange for putting on a uniform and risking someone shooting at us for it. Now, a decent paycheck can be had for many career professionals. The trick though is to not look at it from an hourly rate though. The separation from family, arduous combat duty, and dangerous missions in the air or under the water off set those gains. Even with the gains the military has had, there are still too many young families on food stamps.
As I said before, the hours are pretty harsh. What you do during those hours makes it even harsher. Being exposed to weather and storms while others get to hunker down in shelters. Facing people who are determined to kill you even though they have no idea who you are… you are just a helmet and a uniform for them to shoot at.
Driving a submarine through restricted waters under the harshest conditions for months on end. Flying a jet off the front of an aircraft carrier and then having to land on it in a storm. Being in a patrol vessel trying to rescue a fishing boat crew that got caught in a raging sea (Thanks Ian).
It would takes weeks to catalogue the dangers of every job in the services. Maybe longer than that. But despite the dangers, they serve. No amount of pay or benefits will compensate the ones who pay the ultimate price.
Still citizens despite the restrictions
Military people on active duty give up many of their rights. You can’t go on strike (mutiny), you rarely control your time away from work (AWOL), you have to resist the urge to tell your boss to shove it and your legal rights are severely curtailed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice that was designed by congress to ensure the military doesn’t turn the weapons at its disposal against the government.
It’s a system with a long history of checks and balances and includes some very strong tools to keep the military neutral. One of the strongest tools is the inability of military people to publicly challenge their civilian leadership in the court of public opinion. Believe me when I tell you that once the hatch is closed on a submarine, conversations about the stupidity of any particular government are fair game for discussion. But once the boat is back in port, you shut up. Its either that or risk the wrath of non-judicial punishment or a courts martial.
The only voice you have left is your ability to vote
Since the nature of the job takes you far away, that means absentee voting in most cases. Here is the dirty little secret though: although you have the right to vote, the politicians back home have gamed the system to make sure you rarely ever get counted.
There are different laws for every state which impede the process. You have to have the right forms, know how to fill them out correctly, meet all the deadlines properly, have the right signatures and on and on… and that is just to get the ballot which will hopefully find you in time so that you can repeat the whole process before the artificial deadlines. Its all very convenient for the vote counters. Miss a deadline, your vote is discarded. Check the wrong box and you are outta there. The system is rigged so badly, less than five percent of the military was able to have their votes counted in the 2010 elections.
It is inconceivable to me that in this age where we can track a persons personal information down to their DNA if we choose. We know how much they make, how many traffic violations they have had, their Facebook information and on an on.
Yet for some reason, the government can’t seem to (or just plain refuses to) create a system that allows our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and guardsmen to effectively register their vote. The armed services are the single largest group of disenfranchised citizens in the nation’s history. Not only that, but it is intentional.
The Democratic National Committee and the committee to reelect the Kenyan oops, I mean the president are suing the state of Ohio because they wanted to grant a few extra days to the people providing the very freedom and security we all enjoy. This is a disgraceful attack on the very people they keep trying to use for photo opportunities. This is not the first time they have done so. In the disgraceful aftermath of the 2000 elections Democrat lawyers challenged every military absentee vote since it seemed obvious that the majority of them were conservative voters.
American deserves better. So do her defenders.
The people who protect us have one voice that is still allowed but they are unable to write what I have just written out of fear. Its time to take a stand. Contact your Veterans organizations, contact your elected representatives, contact the DNC and tell them to stop attacking our military men and women’s rights.
Here is a great place to start: http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml
Be their voice. You owe it to the defenders of liberty to make sure their liberties are not denied.