Near 2:00 AM on November 9, 2016, long after the last election poll had closed, I laid in bed waiting patiently for the winner of the presidential race to be announced. Donald Trump, the Republican candidate needed three electoral votes to clinch the election and he was leading significantly in several states that had over ninety-five percent of the votes in for each state. Any one of them had enough electoral votes to put him over the required two hundred and seventy needed. In an unprecedented move, Hillary Clinton, the Democrat candidate for President of the United States, dispatched a representative to the party’s banquet room. With only moments left before Trump would officially win the election, he informed them Secretary Clinton was going to wait for all the votes to be tallied and would speak later in the morning. He then sent all her supporter’s home for the night making it clear she would not be making the traditional conciliatory speech.
Shortly after this, Mrs. Clinton would make a call to Mr. Trump conceding the election. This call would be made before Mr. Trump had gotten those final required electoral votes to win the election. By 3:00 AM, Donald Trump had officially been declared the forty-fifth President of the United States and made his victory speech.
None of this surprised me. In a presidential race like none other, this was a fitting way for it to end. The country had already put up with an inept congress for the past six years. A congress that had the lowest approval ratings in the history of this great country. For the past eight years, we witnessed the two major political parties become so polarized they refused to work together on anything of significance. Nobody should have been surprised that the two candidates running for president, and their followers, would be just as polarized. We found ourselves divided as a nation over these two candidates. Most everyone dearly loved their candidate and vehemently hated the other. Others didn’t think either candidate was worthy of the highest office in the nation. These folks complained about having to choose the lesser of two evils.
I believe, like most veterans, that the United States is the greatest nation in the world. This is the main reason many of us volunteered to serve in the military. Our election process isn’t perfect but it is the best in the world. Both candidates went through primary elections and defeated other members of their own party for the privilege of being their candidate for president. As nasty as this election was, the American people need to accept the winner. Donald Trump went through a huge primary defeating over a dozen contenders. He then clearly won the national election and deserves our support.
I am a Cold War veteran. Like millions of other Cold War veterans, we served during an era when communism when nuclear war was a real threat. We trained and remained vigilante to protect the world from these threats. We served in free countries around the world that didn’t have a fraction of the freedoms that we enjoy. We were ready and willing to defend these freedoms with our lives if necessary. We served under Republican and Democrat commander in chiefs. Once they won the election and were swore in, we accepted them unquestionably as our president regardless of party affiliation or whether we voted for them. Enlisted soldiers take the following oath:
Enlisted soldiers take the following oath:
“I, _____, do solemnly swear 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; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
I can’t speak for the new-age soldiers but I know every one of my brother and sister Cold War veterans took our oath very seriously, and still do. We believe we were never relieved from this oath and honor those solemn words to this day. We love this country and take it personally when someone burns our flag, refuses to stand for the national anthem, or bad mouths our president. Your freedoms came at a price and it was the military veterans, both Cold War, and combat veterans, that were willing to make the sacrifices for these freedoms. You have the freedoms of speech and self-expression as citizens of this great country but as an American, a citizen in the greatest country in the world, you should respect our flag, our anthem, and our president.
I was honored to work my polling station this year and was told the turnout was three times what a normal presidential election year has. For all the nastiness of this election, it got people to the polls. This is what makes our process work at its best when high numbers of Americans participate in the process. For true change to take effect, people need to continue to exercise the greatest right we have in this country, the right to vote. The only way to get the right people representing us and to end the bipartisanship and gridlock is to show up and vote.
Working the polls, I witnessed something for the first time in my life that reminded me of the importance of voting. When it was time to close the voting precinct, a gentleman came outside and shouted, “Hear Ye, Hear Ye. This voting station is now closed.” This simple tradition from our colonial days reminded me of what our forefathers went through in forming this great country. God Bless America.