In a few days I will be leaving the public discourse I’ve participated in for now over a decade and be joining one of the finest and most noble organizations in human history. I will be direct commissioned as an active-duty First Lieutenant JAG Officer, a military lawyer and prosecutor, in the United States Army.
All the freedoms we cherish, all the rights we hold, the laws of the United States and our very Constitution itself, are upheld only because men and women are constantly willing to fight, to take up arms, to risk life and limb, to protect those God-given gifts on this imperfect Earth.
At a time when fewer Americans are serving than ever before, when our political polarization is leading us to see each other more as ‘enemies’ than fellow countrymen, we need a broader cultural and spiritual return to the values that have held our country together over the centuries and have led it to be the most powerful, righteous, and prosperous nation the world has ever known.
For centuries service and the virtues it bred – discipline, honor, duty, humility, sacrifice, physical strength and fitness, determination, vigor, brotherhood, and more – were a universal part of our society. However in recent decades with the decline of service so too have those ideals seemingly been increasingly put on the backburner.
Fame, power, and money – the drivers it seems of our Hollywood-fueled culture and in my life, as much as I’ve been able to have a bit of all three – are ephemeral compared to the higher and grounded callings of faith, family, and service. And for me my service is now taking up arms for the greatest and noblest experiment humanity has ever known.
Indeed it was President Ronald Reagan, quoting British Prime Minister Winston Churchill decades before during World War II, who famously said that “the destiny of man is not measured by material computation. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we are spirits, not animals.”
Former Alabama Governor Bob Riley once said "I have long believed that sacrifice is the pinnacle of patriotism." That is the noble ideal that has led countless Americans throughout history to join our armed services – persons of all backgrounds, classes, and creeds – to lay down body, mind, and soul to defend the noble experiment we have cradled in this country for now almost 250 years. That spirit, as President John F. Kennedy said, of “ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.”
It is what sprouted from both the genius minds of the Founding Fathers and the everyday patriots that together defeated Great Britain, the most powerful empire in the world at the time. It is what inspired men to storm the beaches of Normandy and Iwo Jima to liberate continents from the grip of totalitarian oppression.
It is what fueled the fervor of those fighting Communist aggression in Korea and Vietnam or standing guard in Western Europe and elsewhere. It is what caused the surge in volunteers after September 11th, when our nation was struck by evil and our countrymen answered the call, as President George W. Bush so nobly said from the ruins of the Twin Towers, as they deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, and more.
As the late Senator Zell Miller said in his fiery 2004 RNC speech, “[n]ever in the history of the world has any soldier sacrificed more for the freedom and liberty of total strangers than the American soldier.” Arlington National Cemetery, officially designated our nation’s “most sacred place,” stands as a constant reminder of that fact.
In all these cases these soldiers were motivated by something greater than self-interest, which seems to guide so much in our modern day. Self-interest cannot lead one into sustaining injury or giving one’s life for one’s brothers or nation – but because they were inspired by something higher and greater than themselves, they did.
I will deeply miss being able to provide my insights to the public in such an exciting time in our nation’s history through my work as a business host, as a political commentator, as a columnist, and actor. I will miss dotting the cable news shows, advising candidates and corporations, public and party office, and interviewing policymakers and business leaders. I will miss the immense freedom of civilian life, to see family and friends as one pleases, to say and do what one wants, and my comfortable and fascinating life in DC. Nonetheless, that is sacrifice – and one that our millions of service-members are currently making and that our veterans and the countless of prior generations made as well.
I couldn’t be more honored and humbled to be joining a brotherhood of Americans of every stripe that has changed the world immeasurably for the better and is continuing to do so every day. I hope my small actions – and what I am giving up - will inspire more to do the same, in putting country first, whether in joining the armed forces, civilian public service, our communities, or the rest of the general beautiful social tapestry we have here in this country.
And so to my fellow Americans I say farewell, for a few years at least. It has been an extraordinary pleasure. Duty calls.