Guest post by David A. Reid
“How can you be a Democrat and be in the military?”
I remember the first time someone asked me this question and how surprised I was by their assumption that being a Democrat in some way precluded me from being a patriot and serving my country. Prior to being confronted with this question, I always believed there were at least two places in American society where our political affiliation did not, or should not, matter– that was at church and in the military. We might disagree with each other about which religion is correct or even which version of the same faith is correct, but when we sit down together in our chosen place of worship, our political differences should be immaterial. Likewise, the military, which is sworn to uphold the Constitution and the rights of all Americans, should be blind to our political affiliation.
Every member of the U.S. armed services takes some variation of this oath:
I, [state your name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
When I took this oath for the first time in late-1987, no one asked whether I was Democrat or Republican, Methodist or Catholic, liberal or conservative, etc. When you take this oath, your overarching allegiance transcends partisan politics and religious differences. There is no reason to assume that an individual’s political affiliation makes them any less qualified to serve or any less committed to protecting the nation.
As a matter of historical fact, Democrats have a long history of military service to the United States – Jackson, Truman, Kennedy, Carter – just to name a few. Whether you agree with their politics or their accomplishments while in office, when it came time to serve their country, all of them took the oath and did their best to “…support and defend the Constitution….”
Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, the Democrats allowed the Republicans to co-opt the message on “patriotism” and “service to country.” These are not uniquely Republican traits. The Republicans do not have a monopoly on patriotism. Nor do they have a monopoly on service to the country.
Growing up in rural Rockbridge County, we were taught about the contributions and sacrifices of the founding fathers, the Pledge of Allegiance was said every morning before class, we knew that a Virginian wrote the Declaration of Independence, another Virginian wrote the Constitution, and we marveled at how Virginia dominated the early presidential elections. We were proud to be from Virginia and we were proud to be Americans.
Often the lessons we learn in our youth are the lessons that stay with us the longest and have the most enduring impact on our character. These early history lessons, combined with a desire to “give something back” to the country, resulted in me joining and serving 23-years in the Navy Reserves. So, “Yes!” – it is possible to be a Democrat, be patriotic, and serve in the U.S. military.
It is central to the preservation of our democracy that the military reflect the full breadth of the society it is sworn to protect. Therefore, we need Democrats, Republicans, and independents to volunteer and serve. If you are a Democratic family and your child is considering a career in the military, support it with the same enthusiasm as you would any career choice. Regardless of our political affiliation, we all have a shared responsibility to “…provide for the common defense…”
David Reid is a life-long Democrat, born and raised in Virginia, and who has lived in Loudoun County for the past 15-years. He served 23-years in the U.S. Navy Reserve as an Intelligence Officer, making two deployments to South Korea and one to Iceland. David currently works for a defense contractor, where he provides communication and strategic planning support to the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community.