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Don’t Use 9/11 Service as a Crutch for Personal or Political Gains

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Update: Christopher Suprun has been exposed by an investigation as a fraud. Please see this column for more details. 

I was a Rescue and Recovery volunteer at the World Trade Center following the attacks of September 11, 2001. I like to think my response in many ways defines who I am. In a bigger sense, it places upon me, and my co-responders, a responsibility to be a witness of history, and the voice for all those voices that were silenced that fateful day, and for all those voices which have been silenced since from the illnesses caused by the toxic exposures.

That service in no way makes me better than any other person, it does make me a part of a common thread in the larger tapestry of those who can only comprehend fully what it was like to be there, by having been a part of something larger and outside of ‘self’. It is the similar tapestry that conjoins those who served in the military, such as with those who served among our Greatest Generation, those warriors who also are comprised of a diverse series of threads, but who, regardless if at Pearl Harbor, Iwo Jima, or Berlin, and regardless of service organization, are a band of brothers that can look in one another’s eyes and know the bond that only they can understand in full.

These tapestries are an iridescent combination of hues, comprised of diverse people, of diverse races, religions, political viewpoints, and so on and so forth.

Service is a wonderful calling, and something that should never be used for personal gain. Sadly, all too often, we see that personal gain, whether it is an outright fraud by someone making claims of service or survivorship, who in fact was never present; that stolen valor we all find so abhorrent, or those who make financial or political gains by touting such service as a 9/11 Responder, or in many cases service in the military.

There is more to service that makes a person who they are, and as I’ve said to many, such events as 9/11 will either make you a greater human being, or a bigger jerk than you were before the incident, or you’ll walk away damaged and flounder with the walk of life that your sensitivities of heart found so overwhelming to all the senses. While the calling of service is certainly admirable, it again, makes no person better than another, for the common thread among us all is the human thread, where we all share the same nature. Oh some may be greater in a position of authority, or greater as an individual unto themselves, but one is not better than another regardless of position or experience.

All that said, I find it more than disconcerting when I read of Christopher Suprun, Republican presidential elector, of the State of Texas, who is refusing to cast his electoral vote as his constituents have chosen, and instead sites his being a 9/11 Responder to the Pentagon as if it gives him some right to override his oath of service to his constituency. It does not. Suprun states how his commitment to country is key to his not casting his vote for President-elect Trump and will vote his conscience. While his change of vote will not change the outcome of the election, his lack of loyalty and duty to those he was chosen to represent, along with using his 9/11 related service as some sort of example of his right to do so, is to his detriment, and that of everyone who served. He does not speak for all 9/11 Responders, he certainly does not speak for me, nor I for him or the larger 9/11 community.

At each questioning about his decision to vote other than as pledged to do, he brings up that 9/11 service along with vitriol against Mr. Trump. If as Suprun states in his New York Times interview, “fifteen years ago, as a firefighter, I was part of the response to the Sept. 11 attacks against our nation. That attack and this year’s election may seem unrelated, but for me the relationship becomes clearer every day.” Concluding the interview, he states, “fifteen years ago, I swore an oath to defend my country and Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. On Dec. 19, I will do it again.” I think it should be pointed out that at no time were 9/11 Responders, to any of the attack locations, expected to swear an oath of any kind. But I agree, where Suprun states his service 15 years ago and this year’s election are unrelated. They are. Point in fact is that very diversity I mentioned earlier – some Responders are Democrats, some Republicans, Independent, Green and cross all political boundaries and parties.

Mr. Suprun enjoys making himself out to be some sort of hero, a man voting conscience, over his pledge to those who placed him into this trusted position. Labeled a ‘faithless elector’, granted, constitutionally, Mr. Suprun is under no obligation to vote the popular vote of his party; however, by the very rules outlined as an elector, he may be replaced by a substitute. In fact there is a call out for exactly that, of which I support entirely.

Mr. Suprun has set himself up as judge and jury of not only a president, but of the very people he pledged to represent. Haven’t we seen enough of our elected officials do something similar? Isn’t that part of the establishment politicians that the American people have spoken out against and have been, and will continue to vote out of office? Isn’t that part of the very reason that such a maverick like Mr. Trump, someone outside the norm of establishment politics, was elected in the first place?

No, Mr. Suprun, your 9/11 service does not give you some grandiose, omnipotent, right to circumvent those you were pledged to.

If you’re truly out to show some sense of conscience or integrity, then you would voluntarily step aside, state your reasons for doing such, including your negative opinions of the President-elect as is your right, and allow for the peaceful transfer of your position to someone that will fulfill the pledge of the office you were nominated and therein volunteered to serve in.

Yes, we are siblings in service, but don’t use that service to make yourself out to be something you clearly are not. Doing the right thing, that’s what we should be about as human beings, as those who serve, as those entrusted by others to meet an expectation of office. You can try to justify your actions, but I will not stand back and allow you to continue using 9/11 as your crutch to do so.

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