Supporting our military requires more than lip service. It requires more than flag-waving and sloganeering and patriotic reminders that we are the land of the free because of the brave.
As we celebrate Veterans Day this weekend, honoring all those who have served in the U.S. military, we also lament a situation that is endangering our national defense and violating our promise to those who defend American ideals.
Since February, Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., has blocked hundreds of senior military promotions in protest of the Pentagon’s abortion access policy. More than 350 promotions have been on hold, undermining not only military readiness but morale.
As Sen. Dan Sullivan, a former Marine and a Republican from Alaska, told Fox News: “If we start driving our best flag officers out of the military, this is going to be viewed as a national security suicide mission.” And as a Pentagon spokesperson told Fox: “These are our nominees who have incredibly important jobs all around the world. And it sends a message to our adversaries.”
Air Force Gen. C.Q. Brown was confirmed last month as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, with a full Senate vote being used to evade Tuberville’s blockade. But individual votes on hundreds of promotions is unrealistic; the process typically is handled en masse by unanimous consent — unless a single senator stands in the way. Tuberville has shamelessly been abusing that provision.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said this week: “Enough is enough. Sen. Tuberville had not listened to those that are running our military, and he’s not listened to his own Republican colleagues.” Senate leaders should quickly alter the chamber’s rules to prevent one member from halting progress.
On Veterans Day weekend, the situation in Washington, D.C., highlights the difference between genuine support and dubious support for our military.
Approximately 1.4 million Americans are on active duty throughout the six branches of the armed services — Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Space Force. Another 750,000 are in the reserves or National Guard. Together, they comprise the most powerful military in the world, a collective that protects national interests at home and abroad.
Reasonable debates can be held about how that military is deployed. But full preparation and effective leadership is necessary for service members who are called to put themselves in harm’s way.
Meanwhile, the United States has more than 16 million veterans, including more than 500,000 in Washington. The nation has committed to care for these veterans, through the Veterans Affairs Department, but those promises often are not realized. As researcher and author Beth Saulnier said: “The Department of Defense budget rises and rises; politicians fall over themselves to give the Pentagon more money. But when it comes to the VA and the budget for health care or benefits, it’s like pulling teeth. They may raise the budget, but grudgingly, and it’s never enough.”
Studies have shown that veterans are more likely than the general population to endure homelessness and mental illness. Various other maladies also are common among former military members. This seems to belie the pro-military rhetoric typically espoused by elected officials through empty rhetoric.
While millions of Americans will take time this weekend to properly honor those who have served, they also should remind policymakers to put action behind those words.