GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --
I am 27 years old and have been a member of the United States Air Force for 17 months. I have been old enough to vote for two presidential elections, with the upcoming 2016 Presidential Election being my third. However, I have never voted.
Unfortunately, far too many people my age and older have never taken the time to perform their duty as an American citizen and vote. There are many reasons people don't vote. I think my reason for not voting has changed every time I've been asked.
-I forgot to register.
-I don't like any of the candidates.
-I haven't taken the time to educate myself and I don't want to be an uneducated voter.
-It's too much work to register to vote.
-One vote doesn't matter.
All these reasons and many more I probably made up on the spot were just excuses for a young and somewhat ignorant version of myself. I didn't think voting would have any impact on my life. Then I joined the Air Force.
The United States Armed Forces have one of the most unique opportunities in the world. What other job in allows you to vote for your boss? While all Americans should understand the importance of voting, for military members it holds an even greater weight.
Tech. Sgt. Stewart Mitchell is the 319th Wing Staff Agencies unit voting assistance officer. I sat down and talked with Sergeant Mitchell and he expressed that it is important for Airmen to vote. He said that many of the benefits military members have such as, tuition assistance, the Montgomery GI Bill and many others are decided by the leaders we vote into office.
As a public affairs professional, it is my job to stay up-to-date on current events. As a result, I have become very involved and taken the time to educate myself on as many political issues as possible, but I still haven't registered to vote. It wasn't until I received an e-mail from SergeantMitchell that I decided I needed to register for my absentee ballot.
It is incredibly simple for Airmen here to register for their absentee ballot. They can go to the Federal Voting Assistance Program website and fill out or download the Federal Post Card Application, which is accepted by all states. Then all they need to do is send it to their local election official which can be found on fvap.gov. You will receive your absentee ballot and all you need to do is vote, sign and return the ballot to your state.
The other option is to visit your unit voting assistance officer and get a hard copy of the FPCA. Mitchell said the hard copy comes with free postage and all you need to do is fill it out and seal it. I actually have two hard copies sitting next to me, while I write this story, which I intend to fill out tonight.
Airmen shouldn't waste this incredible opportunity. Very few jobs have the ability to vote on the leaders that decide their future. We have a say in our boss. Take the time and learn about the issues, find the candidate that resonates with your values and beliefs and go vote. There are many bi-partisan websites that will help you become informed enough to make a decision. It's your future and your vote does matter.
Don't follow my example. I made excuses for years until I joined the Air Force and realized how important my vote could be. Follow in the footsteps of our wingman Airman Brianna Lutz, 319th Medical Operations Squadron family practice medical technician.
I know Airman Lutz through our church. This past Sunday, a group of us were standing around talking and somehow voting came up in conversation. Lutz mentioned that this year would be her first time voting and it actually made me somewhat embarrassed. I wish I would have understood the importance of voting at such a young age.
Lutz is 19 years old and has been a member of the USAF since October 2014. At a young age, she understands why it is so important for military members to vote.
"We are not just considering what's best for America, but what's their vision for the military," said Lutz.
She is excited for the upcoming presidential election and to take part in the voting tradition that began with the founding of our country.
When I was younger, I didn't have a very mature view of voting and my rights and duties as an American citizen. On the other hand, Lutz has a view that all young Airmen and young American citizens should aim to emulate.
"We are at a point now where we have a voice, why not use it," said Lutz.
For more information, contact the installation voting officer at firstname.lastname@example.org