Patriotic Dilemma

Editorial by Jeff Slocum, March 27, 2007

Immediate withdrawal is best way to support troops.

How do I serve the military and my nation with integrity as both an active-duty airman and an American citizen? Are they mutually exclusive endeavors? I don't think so.

My moral and ethical conscience and obligations are guiding me in speaking out. They are also guiding me in faithfully and proudly serving my country and my Air Force. I'm proud of my service and fully support the Air Force mission. I'm also a big proponent of "Let's wrap it up in Iraq - as in, 'the sooner, the better.'"

That's why I support the Appeal for Redress, which calls on Congress to bring a prompt ending to the war in Iraq. Some people surely think I've lost my mind. But here's where I'm coming from: I've never believed that the conventional military admonition to "do as we say or get out of the way" is always the answer. That line of thinking can get us into a big jam and keep us floundering around in a mess, like Iraq.

Appealing to Congress for withdrawal from Iraq doesn't mean I don't believe in our mission as an Air Force to support the war. As a total military team of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, we have a huge responsibility to each other in a variety of missions. I'm deeply committed and dedicated to our Air Force and our people. That's why I'm speaking out while on active duty and not running for cover into retirement.

I'm also troubled by the generic "support the troops" mantra. It often seems like a cheerleading campaign that does nothing to actually support them, such as making sure those who get the crap knocked out of them over there are truly well cared for. And the ultimate support is to get them home and out of harm's way as soon as possible. For the sake of their families, we should move even more quickly to get out of Iraq.

The human costs of the Iraq conflict continue to mount to a staggering level of tragedy and grief. I cannot quietly watch as things drag on and deteriorate indefinitely, and more people die or are maimed for life. We need more than car magnets or dutiful silence.

Those service members who have signed the Appeal for Redress ( have struggled with a serious and troubling patriotic dilemma. These people have been to Iraq multiple times. They know the real deal. They are compelled by their moral and ethical convictions to exercise their rights as service members and American citizens.

Yet, ironically, those who are active participants in the defense of our democracy may also find themselves taking friendly fire from those who don't know the truth and have misinterpreted this noble act of patriotism.

The writer is an Air Force chief master sergeant with 21 years on active duty. He's served in Texas, Arizona, Montana, Florida, Korea, Europe, Southwest Asia and Honduras, and is stationed in Fayetteville, N.C.