I have a lot of thoughts on the military on the occasion of this Veterans Day. The great respect I have for those who have and do serve, both among my family and friends and in the country at large. My grandfather, my great uncle, my godfather, my cousins, one of my closest friends and even some of my newest friends. I am grateful for what they have done, for the kind of human beings so many soldiers are, and the leaven they provide to our society. For the sacrifice, the sadness, the scars they bear that nobody can see.

But I also reflect on those who send our soldiers into battle. Our cynical government, teaching our military that the very people they are sworn to protect are, as often as not, the enemy. The politicians who choose to send young men and women who want nothing more than to serve their country with honor into war zones of questionable legality and moral justification, for inscrutable ends, and with insufficient means to accomplish unclear goals. The policymakers who keep military chaplains on furlough over petty politics, and who are even now (according to some military personnel I’ve spoken with) discussing the idea of dismantling the chaplain corps altogether. The commanders willing to toe the party line who are being swiftly promoted to replace those currently being purged from the ranks of our military after long careers of often distinguished service but suddenly under charges of misconduct. Even if that misconduct is truly nothing but the color of their skin or the mien of their political philosophy.

I doubt there’s a red-blooded American man who hasn’t, for at least some period of time, given consideration to joining our military. I certainly did, even though I ultimately chose another path. But in 2013, I can’t imagine sending my sons with a clear conscience to follow the orders of those in command of our armed forces, particularly our unscrupulous commander in chief.

Our soldiers deserve our gratitude and respect. But they also need our prayers that they will always have the courage to do what is right, and not only what they are ordered to do.

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