Present for duty

  • Published
  • By Col. John E. Michel
  • 319th Air Refueling Wing commander
America is in a constant state of change. Every two years, the governing power can shift in one direction or another. But sadly, only about half the eligible voters in the country determine the course of their local, state and national government.

We who wear the cloth of the nation know that our freedom is bought with a price. Many lives have been sacrificed to stave off the forces that seek to suppress our freedom of religion, expression, movement and thought. Those forces that have sought to steal our most basic, cherished freedoms that all too many Americans seem to take for granted.

One of the most overlooked freedoms we enjoy in this great country is the ability to influence a government that serves the people, as opposed to those that enslave their citizens. I have always believed that it is not an inherent right or a mere privilege to vote. Instead, I believe it is best characterized by an idea that seems to have been lost on all too many Americans. Namely, that voting is a duty. As good stewards of freedom, and especially as men and women who are willing to give up our lives in defense of such freedom, we have an obligation to care, to stay informed and to be personally involved in the very democratic process we've sworn to defend -- the power of choice expressed in our opportunity to vote.

Edward Everett Hale, former chaplain of the U.S. Senate, once said, "I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something."

As we gear up for another important election in November, the most basic "something" Hale is referring to is best expressed in our ability to vote. All citizens should be compelled to get out and have their voice heard on the issues that not only affect us today, but also will affect our children and grandchildren tomorrow.

Admittedly, America will continue to make changes, but change does not begin at the ballot box. In a sense, that's where it ends. Real change begins when people like you and me decide that we care enough about the future of our country to do something about it. When we who serve in the armed forces make the choice to exercise the very right we have sworn to defend from all enemies, foreign and domestic. The right to be agents of change at a time when our nation desires and deserves to hear what we've got to say about the direction we're going both as a country and as a people.

To do what those of us who serve in the armed forces do best -- count ourselves present for duty!

(Inspired by James Robison's book The Soul of a Nation)