“...I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same…”
It was approximately one year ago that I left my Washington, DC “swamp life” and commissioned into the United States Army as an active-duty officer. I joined a fraternal family – millions strong and centuries old – sworn to defend unto death the United States of America and the values of liberty we represent, cherish, and live out.
Trading the cocktail receptions and hobnobbing of D.C. media and policy life, which I had spent the better part of the last decade in, for trudging countless miles through the thick Georgia forest hours before dawn, clad in Army gear, was initially quite the shell shock. I realized how few of my former colleagues truly understood the task I – and so many others before, with, and after me – was now undertaking. On the whole dramatically less Americans have been serving in our nation’s Armed Forces in recent years and particularly so in our nation’s chief policymaking center.
I personally believe the United States Armed Forces stands at an exciting in its and our nation’s history. We are in an age where technology has taken utmost importance in war fighting, whether in the form of drones, the cyber domain, aeronautics and space, vehicles, production and support, and more. At the same time our nation is moving from the focus on counter-insurgency warfare of the past years back to great power rivalry, however this time in the settings and environs of the increasingly aging 21st century.
America has fought back countless enemies that threatened our global security since the Revolutionary War. Our prevailing advantages have always been the strength of our will, the innovativeness of our minds, and the diversity of our perspectives. In those fundamentals we are no different now than we were back throughout the centuries, even if we must be constantly adapting to a changing military, technological, diplomatic, and social domestic and world landscape.
After a year in the military I’ve also gained even greater respect for those who served in our Armed Forces and make incredible sacrifices each and every day to defend all our economic, social, and cultural flourishing in the United States. These sacrifices come not only on the battlefield but, as I saw, with family life, free time, physical strain and injury, pay, freedom of travel, of settling down, and so much more.
At the same time there are numerous ways our service members still are not getting the treatment they deserve. The military health care system, not even touching on the VA, continues to under treat our service members, many of whom’s ills are military-related, through long wait times, restrictive policies for seeing outside providers, poor treatment, convoluted bureaucracy, and more.
Military pay issues are a dime a dozen, with service members often waiting many pay periods and struggling through mind-boggling layers of government to get the salary and benefits they deserve, with no compensation for that delay. And – at the same time our military fights for technological supremacy – our service members are mired down in non-digital paper copies routing for everything from simple memorandums to leave/vacation requests.
Our service members retain hardy souls and, as many will remember, are taught to “hunt for the good stuff," to look on the bright side of things and remember the nation we are fighting for and that has our back. Indeed at a time of historic domestic polarization the military retains its status as the most trusted American institution. This trust is not without good reason - the United States Armed Forces remains a pillar of integrity and honor and of diversity and integration, standing above the partisan fray. It is up to my fellow service members and I to each day re-earn and reinforce that solidarity and belief.
Each day in the United States Armed Forces is an honor and privilege. It is a feeling of being part of an unbroken line of guardians of freedom who have, through their sweat and blood, kept secure in the truest sense the United States of America and its people since our republic’s founding.
Erich Reimer is a Captain in the United States Army. All views expressed are those of the author solely and not those of the Department of Defense.