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Tonight, like millions of Americans, I will be glued to my television, watching the third and last presidential debate.But unlike them, and millions of others, whatever I hear tonight, I won’t be taking it with me into the ballot booth.If I have to describe the life of soldiers in a single word; I would have described it as “patriotic”.
But because military officers have a special responsibility to prevent politics from dividing our troops and separating us from society, it is all the more important for us to choose not to exercise that right (this is my belief, of course, and not necessarily that of the Department of Defense or the American government).
Especially when our elected officials routinely make fateful decisions about where and how we are deployed, it is vital that we maintain the constitutional division between the civilians in charge and the men and women who execute their orders.
But people are inherently prone to social tribalism and political factionalism, and so the military has adopted a deliberate nonpartisan stance to support soldier solidarity and maintain the public’s trust.
Unfortunately, an unacceptable number of military officers who vote in this election will publicly express their political preferences and pressure others to follow.
Political abstention is the simple solution: With no vote, there’s no need to convey partisan ideas.
There’s no quicker way to extinguish inflammatory political small talk than to say, “I’m a military officer; I don’t vote.”By not voting, I am countering the alarming number of retired officers who damage the traditional political neutrality of the Profession of Arms by vociferously endorsing presidential candidates and being used as campaign props. Grant is an especially instructive case, because he faced the grimmest temptation to tamper with the election of 1864 during the Civil War. These giants lived in different times, but they all agreed: Military officers shouldn’t vote in national elections.Soldiers are well trained and equipped with vital equipments to deal with any natural or manmade disaster.Despite facing tough terrains and risking his/her life a solider has a more meaningful existence.I am a major in the United States Army, and I believe it is my professional duty — and that of my fellow officers, in all branches — not to vote.To be clear, I strongly believe that officers, like all citizens, should have the right to vote.Anything that erodes that division is a threat, however small, to our democracy. Officers, we’re instructed, are encouraged to “carry out the obligations of citizenship,” yet we are also strongly cautioned not to “engage in partisan political activity.”This ambiguity recognizes that we have two identities: I am a citizen.But I have also sworn an oath as a commissioned military officer.I am recording my vote of confidence in America — after all, trust must flow two ways, and purposeful restraint affirms the faith I place in my fellow citizens with the selection of our commander in chief. As a profession, we’d do well to follow their lead. By not voting, I am walking in the boot prints of our greatest officers: George C. Eisenhower and Patton, to name a few who didn’t vote while in uniform, and those of the modern era that tread the same path — David H. Petraeus, Martin Dempsey and, by all appearances, Mark A. Since the time I was young, my grandfather instilled in me a deep respect and love for my country.