Within the larger controversy of the recent deployment of more than 5,000 active duty military personnel to our southwest border, a chorus of disingenuous voices have decried the fact that the Soldiers and Marines are not going to be home for Thanksgiving.
The irony, of course, is that the above tweet does exactly what it accuses the Administration of doing: using the troops as political props. Somehow, according to those concerned about the troops being away from the holiday, this deployment is different than having our service members deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, Djibouti, Eastern Europe, the Arabian Gulf, the Mediterranean Sea or any of the other countless places our service members are currently standing the watch overseas.
In my more than twenty years in the U.S. military, I have been away from home for several Thanksgiving holidays: one while deployed overseas, but several (including today) I have spent within the continental United States but away from my family, conducting training or supporting my assigned mission. I’ve also missed several Christmases, birthdays, anniversaries, Easters, Halloweens, first days of school, last days of school, etc.
Certainly, Thanksgiving has special significance among the various holidays, as it is built around the idea of spending time with family, and many going to great pains to travel to be with loved ones. But as Defense Secretary Mattis stated, “We’re a 365-day-a-year military. Rain or shine, light or dark, cold weather or hot weather — we have an all-weather force that’s on duty 24/7,” Mattis said during a recent trip to Texas. “Drive around the Pentagon on Thanksgiving Day, and look at the number of cars in the parking lot of people who work right through the holidays.”
Support the troops, to be sure. Do so by ensuring they are properly trained and equipped for their assigned missions, and that such missions are legal and ethical. Send them a care package or letter. But don’t cynically bemoan and exploit the fact that we are deployed away from our families on a holiday. We are proud volunteers and we deserve better.
Any and all opinions are solely my own and do not represent the views of the Department of Defense.