It’s June 3rd and I’d like to address something I saw yesterday that truly broke my heart. There’s been a lot going on, and I’ve had a lot of people ask if we're going to speak up. But we’ve held on social commentary because it hasn’t been our place and our voice isn’t the one that’s needed right now.
That was until I saw a photo of armored and masked soldiers on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Literally standing on the same ground that Martin Luther King Jr gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.
Does nobody else see the irony in this?
So this message is for senior military leaders. After witnessing the officer corps' inability to have a spine regarding immoral wars over three administrations, I’m not speaking to them. There is little trust in that group of humans to act morally and selflessly. I’m talking to the the senior enlisted soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines. You’re the heart of our military and plead with you to do the right thing at every step now. Do what’s best for your troops and citizens.
We need to de-escalate the situation right now. Over the past 20 years is that body armor, guns, masks, and military might only escalates the situation and eventually leads to both sides taking losses. Take a serious look at what you’re doing right now and if you want your legacy to be one of escalation and oppression during a pivotal time in our nation. Do you want to be the one writing letters to the family members of lost soldiers on home soil? Do you want to be the one watching your soldiers commit suicide because they can’t reconcile what happened when this all ends? Do you want that?
I don’t believe in complaining without a solution. So here’s what I think “right” would look like.
“Right” would look like National Guard Soldiers building a podium at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for Minority Leaders to speak.
“Right” would look like first aid tents set up to take care of injuries and dehydration.
“Right” would look like meal tents set up to feed peaceful activists to keep people from getting hangry.
“Right” would look like uniformed service members without armor and guns providing a positive face to those that defend the Constitution. You’ve been doing the tough work for the past 20 years. Let local and federal organizations take up the weight. This is their mess. They can clean it up.
The military isn’t an “easy” button to hit whenever politicians can’t get their act together. They’ve been playing politics and making a mess of D.C. since all of us can remember instead of taking action on the issues that promote equality, prosperity, and progress. Please don’t give them the satisfaction of making it easy for them.
We preach "Lead by Example" in the military. Racism isn’t just an American issue. If you travel, you see it everywhere. America isn’t perfect, but we’ve taken the lead over the past 60 years to promote equality. If you lead in the streets with force and oppression, all you’re doing is leading by example for other nations all over the world to further oppress their own populations and they will justify it with your actions from this moment forward.
So to all you senior enlisted leaders, please do the right thing for your troops and citizens. Strive to de-escalate every situation, use your assets to promote good will, and allow your fellow Americans to act in accordance with the rights given to them in the Constitution that you serve and protect.
Stay safe and Godspeed.
About the Author: Matthew Griffin is a West Point Graduate, Army Ranger, Afghan and Iraq Veteran, Entrepreneur, Author, and 2019 Henry Crown Fellow