This series examines reports over the last five years that suggest our military is “dumbing down”. Unfortunately, not only does this apply to the military in general because it involves each of the main services: Air Force, Army, Marines, and Navy. Even worse, every report shows that the denigration has occurred from directives from within each branch of service.
A very un-Merry Christmas in 2013 (Army)
Two weeks before Christmas, 2013, members of the 158th Infantry Brigade at Camp Shelby, Miss, were discussing plans for the upcoming annual Christmas football tournament when the equal opportunity officer notified everyone that he objected to the use of the word “Christmas”.
One of the soldiers at the meeting reported, “Our equal opportunity representative stopped the briefing and told us that we can’t say Christmas. Almost the entire room blew up. Everybody was frustrated. The equal opportunity rep told our commander that not everyone celebrates Christmas and we couldn’t say Christmas celebration. It had to be "holiday celebration.” In the ensuing discussion, the officer heard her say, “those were the Army’s rules, not hers.”
Afterwords, Public Affairs Chief Amanda Glenn said, "There is no policy at the 158th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East or First Army that forbids using the word Christmas.”
There was a similar story about another Army base in the U.S. An Army Staff Sergeant related that he received a briefing along the lines of "So as not to offend others, it's best to say Happy Holidays." It did not, however, specifically instructed personnel to not say Merry Christmas.
However, when he went to the emergency room on Christmas Eve, hospital personnel were passing out Christmas cards sent in by local students to all who came in for treatment. As the cards were being passed out, they were saying, “Merry Christmas” to everyone. The he said, “I believe they didn't care if they were supposed to “Merry Christmas” or not”.
And in response to the initial distribution of the briefing, most of the other base personnel essentially said, "Roger....Got it! Merry Christmas!" The Staff Sergeant said, “We don't care what others want or think. We’ll say Merry Christmas and if you don't like it, then [go away]!"
He concluded his story by saying, "I believe it was like another thumb in the face of the anti-Christmas-ites.”
One incensed Vietnam Veteran (Lt. Col, retired) from Alabama believes he knows the origin of all these “briefings”. He said, “I don’t care what anyone says, this is coming directly from the White House. If it wasn’t, then it would not be done.”
Pentagon Eases Rules on Military Dress Code
Effective January 22, 2014, Department of Defense (DoD) Instruction Number 1300.17, officially announced it had eased its previous dress code rules on uniform and grooming. The new rules allowed military members to wear particular religious items including “turbans, skullcaps, beards and tattoos”. Additional items allowed to be affixed to uniforms include patches such as one identifying a soldier as a rabbi. Other examples include yarmulkes worn by Orthodox Jewish personnel and growth of beard and carrying of prayer beads by Muslim personnel.
However, servicemen and women must apply for these waivers with their immediate commander in order to receive them. This means that members of various faiths, such as “Muslim, Sikh, Jewish and Wiccan soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen” are now able to apply to receive these changes in their uniform and grooming policies.
In addition to these waivers, military personnel are now able to request accommodations for the following:
- Worship practices or special observances
- Rations that comply with religious dietary restrictions
- Waivers for some medical requirements
Requests will be denied if they:
- Interfere with the safe operation of military weapons or equipment
- Interfere with the proper use of safety or protective gear
- Jeopardize the public health or safety of the unit
An Austin Vietnam era veteran (Capt, Army) succinctly commented on these new changes with, “I have no objection to this”.
Another Vietnam veteran from Austin suggested that this might be a good modern change in military policy and regulations, but, “There is no place for any difference between men and women while they are in basic and advanced training. After that, it’s OK with me.”
However, a Vietnam veteran from Georgia pointed out the potential problems with this new DoD directive: “We cannot have an effective military with thousands of special treatments. The army could regulate itself into a non-functioning state dealing with all the possibilities and combinations of different soldiers’ holidays. It’s a slippery slope.”
Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (Army)
In September, 2011, the Pentagon issued a memo that eliminated the “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) thereby allowing gays to openly serve in the military. The memo stated, "A military chaplain may participate in or officiate any private ceremony, whether on or off a military installation, provided that the ceremony is not prohibited by applicable state and local law."
The memo also included an exemption for chaplains permitting them non-participation in any ceremony “if doing so would be in variance with the tenets of his or her religion." Subsequently, the Associated Press reported, “Representatives of more than 2,000 military chaplains say the clergy they send to the armed forces won't perform same-sex marriages,”
The repeal of DADT brought about what some may call “needed changes”. In February 2013, the U.S. Army homepage reported the headline, “Fort Bragg gay Soldiers serve openly.” The story revealed lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) service members had formed an informal support network. For example, Capt. Daniel Toven, commander and conductor of the Army Ground Forces Band and Staff Sgt. Joshua Gravett, assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, volunteered to serve as gay mentors to network members.
On November 2, 2013, two former West Point Cadets, Larry Choate III, who graduated in 2009, and 27-year old Daniel Lennox, who graduated in 2007, were married in the United States Military Academy’s Cadet Chapel. This was the first time that two men were married on the West Point campus.
Another Army sergeant recently expressed an opinion that may be agreed with by other active duty personnel as well as many veterans. Reminding us that this has nothing to do with orientation nor personal life styles of LGBT servicemen and women, he said, “ ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was the best thing for our military: then and now!” In other words, the keep your private life out of your uniform.
Previous stories in this series: