Right now, the U.S. government is officially closed and even though our active duty military personnel will be going to work, a lot of the reserve and National Guard units will not be training because of the shutdown. My family and I recently went to see the movie 12 Strong and I was reminded of the outstanding service to our country our armed forces provide. Our military remains an all-volunteer force and a viable career option for many of our young people leaving high school or those that haven’t solidified long-term career plans yet. Serving in the military provides outstanding leadership opportunities, training, travel, structure, and much more. The movie also highlights the stress that comes with the job and now with a government shutdown, we are likely to see that stress increase. It should also highlight the fact that when we solely rely on people they will often let us down. I believe in the strength of our military yet realize that I had to seek my strength from the Lord. (Ps 144:1-2)
As I go about my daily activities, I am still grateful when I get an occasional “thank you for your service” from fellow citizens that appreciate the sacrifices of those who have and are currently serving. There are literally thousands of career paths available to those who choose to serve in our armed forces. The movie shows some of the career paths that only a few individuals make it through because of the rigorous physical, mental and emotional discipline it takes to complete. The soldiers depicted in the movie are part of America’s elite fighting forces yet it doesn’t diminish any of the sacrifices the thousands of service members have to make when deciding to sign up to serve. Another aspect often overlooked but depicted beautifully in this movie is the sacrifice that families make. Whether in combat or not, service members often have to leave their families at a moment’s notice or sometimes on unaccompanied tours.
While in the military, I was informed that I would be assigned overseas for one year without my family. This would require a great deal of preparation in order to ensure my family was taken care of. I was responsible for leading my family even though I was not going to be there for the upcoming year. This required me to either make sure bills are scheduled to be paid, school records are up to date, car maintenance and so much more is in line before departing. Leaving your wife and children behind for a year is inherently stressful. Today, politicians are using our military as a political football when it comes to why they can’t figure out how to keep the government functioning. One of the primary functions of our congress is to pass laws and that includes spending bills. Roughly 20% of our congressional leaders have served in the military. Despite this being above the roughly 7% of citizens that have served in the military, I am sometimes troubled by what is said and done by not only our leaders but as a society in general.
Serving in the military, especially during times of conflict bring on additional stress. Adding to the already tense situation involving the government shutdown is the fact that military personnel may not get paid even though they have to show up for work. What’s more disheartening is when our country’s vice president makes a political speech to a group of military personnel and laid blame on the opposing party. Were they supposed to clap? Unlike the military, it is reported that Congress will get paid during the shutdown. Some members of Congress have indicated that they will donate their pay during the shutdown. I would venture to say that service members would be more interested in getting their own paychecks that seeing some of the wealthy members of Congress donating theirs. This is the situation we find ourselves in as a country. In my book Step Into Your Glorious Future I talk about taking on the critical responsibility of developing a long-term family readiness plan to minimize the stress brought forth by the next shutdown or decisions made by employers, Congress, the president or anyone else.
As a former member of the military, I often hear businesses say they “support our troops” but with the exception of very few, they no longer offer military discounts, scholarships for fallen soldiers, or any tangible evidence of that support. Despite various attempts to use the current government shutdown for political gain, service to our country remains one of the most honorable things to do. I remember one of my former commanders sharing with me that as I led my soldiers, always take the blame and give the praise. How sweet will it be when this lesson is adopted by our elected leaders? Right now, the lives of many is in the hands of a few. If these circumstances don’t raise the alarm for all of us to be engaged in the election of our leaders, our service to the country, our personal financial plans, and more, what will? I thank the thousands of men and women who have served our great country. (1 The 5: 18)