Just because you’re in the military doesn’t mean you automatically agree with the boss.
“For the most part people in the military are there to serve their country. They lay their lives down to protect you, and just because the United States policy-makers have made some mistakes . . . that doesn’t mean the soldiers are bad,” said National Guard veteran, Judy Ackerman.
Not everyone remembers that, and incidents between civilians, especially activists, and those whose job it is to protect us are common. Ackerman said the solution is simple: More respect.
“Activists need to treat the police, military with respect. They are there to do their job and protect civilians,” she said. “Equally, the police, military need to treat all civilians, including activists, with respect. Let’s reduce the violence, including violent, disrespectful dialog.”
Ackerman points out that today’s military is increasingly diverse.
“When there was a draft, the diversity in the military brought all kinds of different people,” she said. “Bringing diversity into any organization makes it stronger.”
Ackerman disagrees with President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people in the military. She says it reduces the number of qualified, willing soldiers who’ve been extensively trained to do their current jobs.
Ackerman’s military career fell under the former ban on gays in the military, which was lifted in the early 1990s. She likened the President’s recently announced policy to that time, seeing it as detracting from the full potential of the Armed Forces.
“One of my things in the military was to speak out on the ban on gays in the military. That was horrendous,” she said. “Some of the people they were kicking out took years to train. Although I don’t personally know any transgender people in the military, the same thing applies. How much does it cost to train somebody?”
U.S. Army veteran Nick Farrell agrees.
“Today you actually have people who want to serve, they’re not forced to serve. To tell someone they can’t is a mystery to me,” he says.
Former Army soldier John Lozano said he’s also against the ban and has doubts it’s even executable.
“I think [transgender people] should be able to serve as long as you can perform your job regardless of what sex you orient with,” he said.
So where do veterans stand on free speech? Do professional football players have a right to take a knee during the “Star Spangled Banner?”
“If Colin Kaepernick wants to take a knee, let him take a knee,” Farrell said.
Farrell and Ackerman pointed out that freedom of speech – something they fought for – is covered under the First Amendment. Taking a knee falls into that category.
He and Ackerman expressed a similar opinion about athletes kneeling during the national anthem: “We fought for that right.”
“Personally I stand, because that’s how I feel, and I will salute the flag,” Ackerman said. “But I will fight and die so someone else can express their views.”
Lozano’s feelings are mixed when it comes to kneeling during the national anthem.
“For me, after being in two [deployments] and having had some friends who died, I feel it’s a little disrespectful towards the people who’ve died and sacrificed,” Lozano says. “As far as freedom of speech, that’s their right, even if I don’t agree.”