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Getty Images / Branch tapes and dog tags are seen on a camouflage uniform background.

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy delivered the commencement address to the graduating class at the U.S. Military Academy. The young president addressed the monumental change in warfare from his own generation to that of the new second lieutenants. He cautioned, "When there is a visible enemy to fight in open combat, the answer is not so difficult. Many serve, all applaud, and the tide of patriotism runs high. But when there is a long, slow struggle, with no immediate visible foe, your choice will seem hard indeed."

Those were profound words. Kennedy, of course was talking about the changes in warfare from the massive assaults that characterized both world wars to politically limited military conflicts around the world. He was right. The American military and our entire country did indeed face hard choices in dozens of places like Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and, most recently, Afghanistan.

Perhaps no choice, however, is more difficult than to confront an enemy that is not in the god-forsaken jungles of Vietnam or Afghanistan's high deserts, but within our own borders. There are many forces at work within our own country today that seek to fundamentally change our nation by subverting our Constitution and destroying our Bill of Rights. They subscribe to a Marxist ideology that stands in stark contrast to the twin ideals of liberty and republican (small r) government.

Marxism advances the notion that societies throughout the world and throughout history are composed of two types of people — the oppressed and the oppressors. According to Marx, cataclysmic events eventually will lead to the oppressed overthrowing the oppressors and establishing a utopian society where the state will control every aspect of the economy, religion, wealth and education. His theories were implemented in the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, and many other countries. All ended in failed economies, millions of deaths and severe restrictions of individual liberties. Not one was a success. Yet, American socialists carry the red banner proudly.

Who defends us against such threats to our nation? Once we thought it was those in uniform. Every year on Veterans Day, I get emails, texts, and phone calls from friends and relatives thanking me for my 24 years of service. It was an honor, and I served with many incredibly capable men and women. I also served with many, mostly at higher ranks, who could not distinguish service from self-service.

We don't like to think of our troops that way. We believe they embody the best of American ideals. We imagine brave, loyal, freedom-loving, hard-working, disciplined soldiers, defending us at all costs. Most deserve those accolades, but not all. Today, racial and gender social sensitivities among politically savvy officers climbing the ladder to the top often eclipse courage, integrity and competence.

The real battle today is not fought by Americans in uniforms but by Americans wearing everyday clothes. Who are they? They are those who go to school board meetings to fight teaching our young people propaganda like critical race theory. They are those who decry the lawlessness and racism behind the Black Lives Matter movement. They are those who teach their children to behave responsibly and to respect every citizen regardless of skin color instead of teaching them they are simply victims of an unjust society. They are scientists who courageously question the "settled" science behind the radical global cooling/warming/climate change agenda.

Thank you, patriots, for making the hard choice, as President Kennedy said, to serve your country in a "long, slow struggle." You are the real heroes of our nation, and this should be your day, too.

Roger Smith, a local author, is a frequent contributor to the Times Free Press.

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