“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth of falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn't you then first discover how much you really trusted it? C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
It is Veteran's Day, and across the nation we pause to honor those who have served, as well as those still serving. I become so emotional, part of it is the recognition of what has been given, The remarkable service and sacrifice of so many courageous and honorable men and women, and their families as well, profoundly moves me. I hear the stories of those who are awarded the medals for acts of valor, and other high profile service accomplishments of duty and honor, and I always feel humbled by their accomplishments. I know so many other stories of acts of courage as well, many shared with very few people, for true Soldiers never seek glory for themselves, and most of them accepting those medals are uncomfortable at the recognition.
What causes a desperate desire in me to speak out to the world is the unacceptable numbers of cases in our military, where service persons have been raped or experienced some form of Military Sexual Trauma at the hands of those serving beside them. Then they have been betrayed by the leadership they have followed without question when a blind eye is turned concerning the crimes committed against them. There are as well other injustices, committed against our military service men and women, some actually perpetrated by their leadership, which go unpunished as the rights of our constitution are denied them.
"I was proud of my military service at one point, but after being betrayed by Chain of command, NCIS, and the Senate. I came to a conclusion that I did not want any thing to do with an organization and government that supported rape, allowed it to continue, and did nothing to stop it. So in a statement, I sent my service medals back. Hoping that my message would be received loud and clear. I am dedicated to doing everything I can to stop rape. Rape is not about sex. It is about power and control."
Those are the words of a Veteran with a broken heart and spirit, a young woman of courage and honor, named Julie Smoot, spoken and acted upon with the defeat of legislation aimed at removing chain of command from the reporting of and action on cases of sexual assault. This action occurred this summer in July. It was guaranteed by that decision that the status quo will remain. For 20 years the Chain of Command has been promising to "fix" this problem, and every year the numbers of assaults climb. It is quite obvious that the Chain of Command is incapable, or unwilling to do anything about this problem.
"The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year." John Foster Dulles, Former Secretary of State
When a woman returns her service medals, because she has been raped, I see the message of her heart. The failure of the Chain of Command, NCIS, the Department of Defense, and her government is self explanatory. Those with the authority and power to do so have refused to take the steps necessary to not only curb sexual assault in the military, prosecute, convict, and punish the guilty, but also they have failed to courts martial those commanders, and other individuals, found to have turned a blind eye. Those who have covered up wrong doing, defiled the UCMJ and the honor of the military, not only commit a crime, and betray a service member, but cause to stand among the guilty, every citizen of this country, as long as we allow their lack of honorable action. Our country will only know as much justice as we demand. We can never leave the administration of justice unmonitored in the hands of a few, too much lies at risk in complacency. When we the people, decide as a country that we will not tolerate sexual assault in the military, things will change. Would anyone have the courage to say to Julie Smoot, "thank you for your service?" Those words would only wound her. Her service, she feels, has been disgraced by the actions and crimes of others.
When we allow this behavior to continue by our lack of heeding the call to action, we not only give the nod to rape, but crime, abuse of power, fraud, waste, and abuse in every area of government as well. Those who perpetrate these crimes begin to consider themselves untouchable, and as junior officers watch this behavior, those of honor tend to leave the ranks, considering that honor is not to be found in leadership, and those who demand honor will stand at risk of retaliation. Not only that, but those junior officers who would follow the way of the dishonorable, observe as well, and come to understand all the nuances of how to go along to get along, and the corruption multiples exponentially. Those who would dare stand against corruption are faced with united efforts by those in charge, to cover up corruption, and in fact, stand in danger of having their own careers destroyed with false allegations, and trumped up charges. Once again when this happens, wrong doing is to be reported to the chain of command, and when it is the chain of command that is perpetrating the abuse of power, chances are, the reports will be filed away, and never even looked at. Six years ago, my husband stumbled upon an issue of corruption. He made an IG report, attempted many times to follow up on it. Just a few months ago, he received a letter from an entirely different person than originally received his complaint, and I swear, it stated these exact words: "We have done a through preliminary investigation, and will take no further action in this matter."
There existed for a very long time, a pocket of corruption in a Division of the Army Reserves, which is no longer in existence, and the stories, and the details I could relay concerning many of those stories, would shame the Army Reserves, the Army, the DoD, and this country before the entire world. When military sexual trauma is allowed to run rampant among our military, our position in the world as an authority in areas such as human rights, liberty, and the right to the pursuit of happiness and security, is at grave risk. Any abuse of power in the military is a very real threat to us all. We embolden our enemies, and shame our country and its' military when we the people refuse to take the responsibility into our own hands.
But what about those who served like Julie Smoot, who returned her medals in heartbreak to the government who gave them? How would you thank her for her service on Veteran's Day? Perhaps, moved to action of remembrance and honor yourself, you would like to sign a petition on the behalf of those who have endured the unthinkable. Here is an opportunity and a link for you to perform a small act of remembrance, and perhaps you will pass on this story of a Service Member betrayed by the enemy within, and I urge those you pass it to, and to sign the petition as well. Send a message with meaning to Julie Smoot, sign the petition, send this story and the link to every patriotic American you know. Tell Julie by your actions, "thank you for your service."