Retired Army Col. David Dodd served more than 27 years in the military, including two deployments to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. He serves as the director of operations at Shields of Strength, and on the Board of Directors ofPoint 27 outreach to veterans, military families, first responders, athletes and the chronically ill.
Voting is a civic responsibility for all Americans, and I believe every member of the armed forces and every veteran should consider voting to be a personal duty.
The oath we took when entering the military said, in part, "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."
Voting is an act of supporting the Constitution, and it is a means for service members and veterans to perform their duty.
In the same oath, we pledged to obey the orders of the president of the United States. As the commander in chief, the president has the authority to commit U.S. forces to combat operations.
Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and military families have a personal stake in the competence, judgment and character of the commander in chief, and voting is the proper vehicle to voice their opinion and choice for civilian leadership.
What's at Stake
Selecting a commander in chief has far-reaching implications for troops, including rules of engagement, funding for military benefits, disposition of captured terrorists, characterization of terrorist attacks against military personnel, treatment of deserters, and personnel policies. It also includes roles for women in combat, homosexual and transgender policies, and more.
It is the commander in chief who nominates the secretary of defense, the secretaries of the military services, and other political appointees. It is through these appointees that the commander in chief's policies are implemented across the Department of Defense.
Just as important are the commander in chief's selections for other key government agencies, including the State Department, CIA, FBI, NSA, Supreme Court and Department of Veterans Affairs. Each of these organizations deeply and directly impacts the lives of troops and military families.
Federal, State, Local Elections
In addition to voting for a presidential candidate this November, 33 senators, 435 congressmen, plus state and local officials will be on the ballot. Each of these officials will have an impact on troops and their families.
Congress will approve the defense budget and VA funding. State and local officials govern schools, first responders and tax issues that directly impact military families.
Military personnel have a responsibility to make informed decisions when selecting men and women for public office.
Be an Informed Voter
John F. Kennedy said, "The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all."
The Army defines duty as, "Accept responsibility for your own actions and those entrusted to your care."
Prior to voting, troops should educate themselves on the issues and the candidates. One valuable resource is GovTrack, a web-based tool that allows one to quickly see how incumbent congressmen and senators vote on issues such as VA funding, defense funding, funding for foreign aid, removal of sanctions against hostile governments, etc.
Register to Vote. It's Easy
In order to vote, service members must register. It's a very easy process. Simply complete the Federal Post Card Application using the FPCA online assistant, or pick up a hard-copy version from your Voting Assistance Officer or nearest U.S. Embassy or consular office.
Double-check that your contact information is accurate in case your election office needs to reach you.
'A Vote Is Like a Rifle'
Theodore Roosevelt said, "A vote is like a rifle: Its usefulness depends upon the character of the user."
Members of the armed forces have exceptional character, and they adhere to time-honored codes of conduct and values, including duty, honor, integrity, loyalty, personal courage, respect and selfless service.
As we approach Election Day, it is essential for troops, veterans and their families to register to vote; become informed about their local, state and federal candidates; and educate their friends and family.
We all swore to support and defend the Constitution, and our oath has no expiration date. Do your duty and vote.
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