Memorial Day Requires Your Action

Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times

Over the past 50 years of American life, there has been a significant shift in who serves in the U.S. Armed Forces. As a result, most Americans are less and less in touch with the realities of military life, the struggles and victories of those who serve, and the truth of who fights and dies for American liberty. Today, Memorial Day, is a time to remember those who gave their lives for ours. It is also an opportunity to rethink how we understand conflict and policy.

I had the honor of attending and graduating from the U.S. Naval War College and the privilege to serve as a civilian in the national security community. Now that I have left government service to for executive careers in cybersecurity, I have taken time to reflect on some of the hard realities associated with our national security and foreign policy agenda.

The Realities of War

“The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.” — Douglas MacArthur

Today is about remembering those men and women who died in service and commitment to our nation — those who gave the last full measure of devotion to America. Memorial Day is important because it awakens people to the realities of conflict.

In simple terms, committed men and women die because we do not have the discipline to deter from conflict. This is not to say that we ought not show force — but rather, it is to say that we must first show restraint because the cost of war is the lives of many.

The Importance of Service

More and more, I see less and less of a desire to serve from so many who could add so much to our nation. I cannot help but think that it is our corrosive politics that stops able men and women from choosing public service. And we need them. If for no other reason that this:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

The Politics of War & Conflict

It was Karl von Clausewitz, a Prussian general and famed military theorist who said:

“War is the continuation of politics by other means.” — Carl von Clausewitz

If that is true; if war is the natural result of our inability to reconcile our politics outside of conflict, then today’s politics spell the reality of tomorrow’s future. And that — that in itself should be the concerning reality that we all grapple with today. We must change our politics if we want to truly support the men and women of the Armed Forces.

Our politics use the men and women of the Armed Forces as a political football. So many in power claim to “support the troops” but take little-to-no action to stop conflict. Members of the Armed Forces will go to war if called — but they would chose to show strength through peace instead and project power rather than have to use it.

But that is not the most concerning outcome of the casual relationship policy-makers often have with the realities of the military. In recent years, policy-makers have not meaningfully raised the pay of those who serve, they have not found solutions to get them and their families off food stamps, and they have not reformed the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs such that their service is honored by our commitment to their lifelong well-being. And yet, we ask them to fight and die at home and abroad, put themselves in harms way, and insert themselves into the conflicts that we create through our lack of diplomatic foresight and fortitude. It pains me that we have this day of remembrance but not a commitment to daily action.

For those who truly want to memorialize the fallen men and women of America’s Armed Forces, it would be wise of us to remember the words of Thomas Jefferson, whose wisdom would go far to prevent unnecessary conflict:

“Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.” — Thomas Jefferson

The Military Entertainment Complex

Many have rightfully criticized current and past administrations with supporting defense contractors in place of truly supporting the troops. When you look at the breakdowns for weapons systems vs. military pay and training, it’s hard to fight the facts.

Our political establishment’s obsession with weapons systems feeds our media’s fetish with military weaponry. Twenty-four hour news fixates on images of missiles, rockets, aircraft, and bombs, which sanitizes war in such a way that makes it feel like entertainment — not conflict. This is very dangerous for members of the Armed Forces. When the general American population is disconnected with war, view it as entertainment, and do not feel the effects of conflict — men and women in the military die.

You Can Serve

This Memorial Day is no different for me than so many others. I pray for my fallen friends, call their families, and hang my flag. But in some way, today is different. Today, I am making a choice to do more than remember my friends; I choose to honor them by taking action.

Over the course of this year, I will be reaching out to lawmakers, military officials, and key Administration staff to remind them that their actions have consequences. I would ask you to join me in these endeavors if for no other reason than this: I do not want to add any more names to the list of those who I remember each Memorial Day.

I believe in the words of John Adams, who once famously said the following, which has prompted me to commit myself and my career to service:

“I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.” — John Adams

The single greatest action that you can take between each Memorial Day is to commit yourself to service, to peace, and to the virtue of America.

Cybersecurity executive, recovering startup founder, tech philosopher, hacker, traveler, early-stage investor. Independent. Faithful optimist.