The cultural change movement is seeking to erase our history rather than understand it and learn from it. As part of this these “progressives” have launched a full scale, frontal attack on our heritage, our history, and the traditions of the US Army. I was born at Fort Benning when my father was stationed there in the days leading up to World War II. When I was several months old, we moved to Fort Bragg from which the 82nd Airborne Division deployed to North Africa to fight Nazism and fascism. Today, we face a form of domestic intellectual and cultural warfare that is potentially more dangerous than many of the other threats that we have faced.
What do you think of when you hear the following names: Camp Beauregard and Fort Polk in Louisiana; Fort Benning and Fort Gordon in Georgia; Fort Bragg in North Carolina; Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Lee and Fort Pickett in Virginia; Fort Rucker in Alabama, and Fort Hood in Texas? For this old soldier, I think of National Guard and reserve training centers, a national training center, the Army Signal Center, the home of the 18th Airborne Corps, birthplace, Airborne and Ranger school, the Army Logistics Center, the Army Aviation Center, an armored corps, etc.
It would be interesting to poll past and present members of the US Army and to ask them if they ever even thought about the source of the name of the fort or camp where they were stationed or training. I, for one, did not. I related a specific fort to the activities on that fort and the units traditionally stationed there. Allegiance was not to a fort but the unit I was assigned to.
On the other side of the equation are those who point at the individual Confederate generals for whom these ten forts and camps in the south are named. Some argue that each of these generals was a traitor, an incompetent, and a slaveholder. Their treachery is a fact, but in many cases, their military genius is widely studied to this day. We should have this debate, but a wholesale rewriting of history to serve political or pseudo-cultural ends is dangerous and decidedly un-American. In the current zeitgeist, not only do these former generals come up for attack, but in recent days mobs have defaced memorials honoring Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator himself, and abolitionist Matthias Baldwin. So let us have a debate, but never give in to the mob.
This is a watershed moment in our nation’s history. I was in high school when the National Guard was called in to enforce the Supreme Court’s Brown decision to end segregated schools. I was a cadet and young officer when the Army again acted to put down riots in the late 1960s. Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson were all correct in using military power to enforce civil rights and protect civilians and property. Similarly, President George H.W. Bush was right to use troops to end the riots in Los Angeles after the acquittal of the cops who beat Rodney King. Today, when politics and ideology seem to trump nearly all other considerations, support for ending riots and looting appears to require you first declare your political allegiance to the movement that is creating this grief.
I urge our elected and appointed leaders to resist the temptation to give in to the loudest, angriest elements of the citizenry. The evils of slavery, segregation, and racism constitute the original sin of America. The US Army, from the freedman and former slaves who fought on the side of the Union to the Buffalo Soldiers and the Nisei, have time and again showed that the brotherhood of soldiers is larger and more open-minded than any college campus. There is much to be proud of in our history. Erasing the ugly parts will do nothing to solve the challenges ahead of us as a military and as a country.
Interestingly, a number of graduates did not have the courage to reveal their names rather they took the moniker of “anonymous”.
The letter is critical of a number of issues related to the use of the military in recent events throughout the country. Regarding that, it is my understanding to this point that only police and some National Guards have been used to suppress riots, looting and the general mayhem we have seen recorded that have followed peaceful protests.
There are those of us who wish that the military had been used to stop the damage in Minneapolis and other places—but they weren’t because the mayor and governor were weak kneed.
Before we start on this topic, lest there be any misunderstanding, I want to go on record about the killing of George Floyd, which allegedly has sparked the protests and some/much of the subsequent violence. The use of force observed in the killing of Mr. Floyd recently was clearly tragic and unnecessary. It has been rapidly taken to the authorities who have remanded the officer who killed Mr. Floyd and his associated officers for arraignment and subsequent trial for their actions.
George Floyd has been portrayed as a “good man”. However, let us not forget that the aforementioned Mr Floyd had a long record of violence and criminality and died with fentanyl (86 ng/mL of “free morphine”) in his system, had recently ingested methamphetamine and only came to light to the authorities when he allegedly attempted to cash a counterfeit $20 bill. This in no way justifies the treatment and the tragic manner in which he was killed. Perhaps he had been trying to turn his life around as has been stated.
We have been endowed by our Creator with free will. Sometimes we make poor choices but no one today wants to recognize that choices have consequences.
I would like to address just two of the highlights of this letter below.
One premise is that “Sadly, the government has threatened to use the Army in which you serve as a weapon against fellow Americans engaging in these legitimate protests. Worse, military leaders, who took the same oath you take today, have participated in politically charged events,”
“The oath taken by those who choose to serve in America’s military is aspirational. We pledge service to no monarch; no government; no political party; no tyrant,” the group wrote, adding that they were “concerned that fellow graduates serving in senior-level, public positions are failing to uphold their oath of office and their commitment to Duty, Honor, Country.”
It would appear that the signers of the letter failed to read and understand a number of things.
First is the officer’s oath of allegiance which states: I, [name], 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 on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
Second is the Constitution Article III Section III of the United States which addresses Posse Comitatius. It states, “Whenever the President considers that unlawful obstructions, combinations, or assemblages, or rebellion against the authority of the United States, make it impracticable to enforce the laws of the United States in any State or Territory by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, he may call into Federal service such of the militia of any State, and use such of the armed forces, as he considers necessary to enforce those laws or to suppress the rebellion.”
“The President, by using the militia or the armed forces, or both . . . shall take such measures as he considers necessary to suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy, if it—(1) so hinders the execution of the laws of that State, and of the United States within the State, that any part or class of its people is deprived of a right, privilege, immunity, or protection named in the Constitution and secured by law . . . . ”
Unfortunately, peaceful (legitimate) protests, which I think everyone believes are just, have had a tendency to turn violent. It seems to me that the use of violence in protests which have turned into riots against legitimate authority, violence against the police, property owners and others is infringing upon others right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These events clearly deprive a class of people of their right to protection under the law.
The author(s) of the aforementioned letter further have perhaps failed to recognize that the both national guards and military forces have been used multiple times in the past, to include the recent past by both Republican and Democratic presidents.
Do you feel as a citizen that it is your right to feel safe in your abode, your car or place of business?
If yes, who do you expect to protect your life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness against riot, looting, mayhem physical assault and possible death? If not the states, who cannot or will not protect people, then the United States government?
As inspirational as Duty, Honor, Country is, the oath taken by officers would appear very clear. “…support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic“. Are those who would cause destruction and mayhem an enemy?
So I am puzzled by their lack of understanding of the oath they took and the Constitution of the United States. They were required to study it as cadets!
Is it the inability to read and understand the English language? The failure of our educational system? A failure of the values of West Point? Or perhaps the unmitigated hatred of a president they cannot abide flamed by a media and press who have lost their sense of justice and integrity.
Maybe it is their disloyalty that the writers so passionately desire to attribute to others. It should be said that if the writers had not targeted two members of the class of 1986—Secretary of State Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Esper—that what they wrote could be said about any group of graduates serving in any administration by those who did not like the policies of that administration.
In my opinion, the originators of this letter have taken Trump derangement/hate syndrome to an extreme and in so doing have sullied the reputation of West Point—shame on them! Most likely the idea of the letter originated from a Biden staffer or a wanta be Biden staffer. The originator most likely is looking for a downstream payoff and does not worry about sullying the reputation of West Point. Unfortunately he must have almost failed law as a cadet, as pointed out above.
I am sure that both the President of Association of Graduates and Superintendent of West Point believe that being a graduate of West Point is a sacred honor and the comradeship of fellow graduates is a most critical bond. If they had their way this issue would go away and the signers return to the fold of graduates whose solemn duty is to defend the constitution.
Maybe the originator and signers should file Duty, Honor and Country off of their class rings if they choose to not repudiate the letter.
Contrary to the letter almost all graduates still support the constitution and the academy motto of “Duty, Honor, Country.”
[i] I am very grateful for the input of several West Point classmates whose thoughts have been incorporated into this response.
June 14th is the 255th birthday of the US Army. The Army that I and most of my classmates served in. The Army that my father served in and many of the veterans of many wars served in.
I am providing a musical tribute to that Army as performed by the West Point Alumni Glee Club. https://youtu.be/amCP9zOifVE. Please fee free to sing along!
June 14 is also flag day–show our colors.