On a cold and rainy morning in late October 1981, my mom drove me to the airport in Louisville. There I joined a group of young recruits bound for Basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
At an airport restaurant, we swore the oath of enlistment in the Armed Forces of the United States: I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that 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; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
The Army paid for our breakfasts that morning. I don’t remember what I ate, nor do I remember the names or the number of my fellow recruits. The only thing I remember clearly is swearing the Oath of Enlistment. Those were very serious words; I officially became a soldier when I swore that solemn oath.
After Basic training and Advanced Individual Training, I was assigned to a Public Affairs Office at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. My unit was part of the Army’s Rapid Deployment Force, a highly mobile joint task force that could rapidly deploy from nearby Pope Air Force Base to any location in the world. That is what we trained to do—
The knowledge that we would be the first troops to respond in wartime was exciting. We were too stupid, or too well trained, to be scared or apprehensive. I had an Army buddy named Jim. We often pledged our loyalty to each other, (usually after a few beers): “I got your back, buddy. You can count on me—I got your back.” And so on.
Thankfully, those pledges were never tested — but it was close. In July 1983, I transferred from Fort Bragg to Nellingen (then West) Germany. In October 1983, the US invaded the island nation of Grenada. The invading force consisted of the Army’s Rapid Deployment Force, Marines, Army Delta Force, Navy SEALs, and ancillary forces totaling 7,600 troops.
It wasn’t much of a war, really. 19 American forces were killed and 116 wounded. It was all over in less than a week.
When the troops were home again, my old sergeant called me from Fort Bragg. “Heinz, you really missed it. We went down there and we kicked those Commies’ butts.”
“Well, gee Sarge — dang,” I muttered insincerely. I was very glad I missed it. Indeed, I considered my timely transfer to Germany as something like divine intervention.
I was not afraid of dying. My main concern was, in the immortal words of Gen. George Patton, that I would be required to make “some other poor dumb bastard die for his country.” I figured dying would be easy. Living with the knowledge that I’d taken human life would be much more difficult, at least for me.
Still I was mentally and spiritually prepared to do both — to die and/or to kill if I had to. I had sworn a solemn oath, and I would honor that oath, regardless.
On December 18, 2019, the US House of Representatives approved two articles of impeachment, Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress, against President Donald J. Trump. All Republicans and three Democrats totaled 198 opposed, while 229 Democrats voted in favor of Trump’s impeachment.
On January 16, 2020, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath to the US senators: Do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, president of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help you God?”
The Democrats made a strong case for impeachment. Trump’s defense team did not refute the basic facts: That Trump withheld military aid and an invitation to the White House to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to pressure Ukraine into announcing an investigation into Trump’s chief political rival, former US Vice President Joe Biden.
But on February 5, 2020, Trump was acquitted on both counts by the US Senate. On Abuse of Power, 48 Democrats voted for conviction, and 52 Republicans voted for acquittal. On Obstruction of Congress, 47 senators voted for conviction, and 53 Republican senators voted to acquit. Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah voted for conviction on Abuse of Power.
As election day draws near, some Republicans are finally speaking truth to power. According to a recent (8/5/2020) PBS report: Stuart Stevens is one of the Republican Party’s most successful campaign strategists. In his revealing new book, “It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump,” Stevens admits the GOP uses race as an issue to divide Americans and win elections—and says the party has abandoned its principles in the Trump era.
In an interview with PBS’ Judy Woodruff, Stevens explained: “It — really, the party clearly doesn’t believe in what it said it believed in. I think that, you know, you go back a few years ago, we would have said there’s a core set of beliefs, personal responsibility, character counts, strong on Russia, fiscal sanity, free trade, pro-legal immigration. All of these were bedrock principles. And now it’s not that the party has drifted away from these. The party is actively against each of these principles.”
Judy Woodruff asked: “And so what happens now? You and other Republicans who are dedicated to making sure Donald Trump is not reelected, you don’t have a home in the party anymore. Where do you go?”
Stevens replied: “For myself, Judy, I’m going to work with Democrats. I think that the future of America, the policy is going to be decided by decisions inside the Democratic Party.
“So, take health care for instance. In 20 years, is America going to be the only country that doesn’t have national health insurance? No, we’re not going to be that. So, what that’s going to be is not going to be decided in the Republican Party. It will be decided in the Democratic Party....”
Woodruff concluded: “And what do you say finally, Stu Stevens, to those Republicans who have worked with you over the many, many years and say, he’s a traitor to the cause, he’s gone over to the other side, he’s forgotten all the good things we did together?”
Stevens answered: “My feeling is that there’s a collective failure here by the party. Most of us go through life — at least, I know I certainly do — trying to avoid moral tests.
“But Donald Trump was a moral test that we couldn’t avoid. The party couldn’t. And we failed.
“And I think it’s particularly tragic, in that this generation of American politicians are heirs to the greatest generation. And people like my dad spent three years in the South Pacific, 28 island landings [during World War II].
“And courage isn’t standing up to Donald Trump. Courage is getting out of a boat when the guy in front of you got shot. And that was their legacy.
“And I think that they [Republicans] betrayed that legacy by not standing up for the principles that they said that they were for.”
Former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath knows what it means to support and defend the Constitution. During her 20 years of service, McGrath flew 89 combat missions against al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
McGrath has proved she has the right stuff. McConnell has proved he cannot be trusted. He does not deserve another term in Congress. 36 years is long enough.
Mark Heinz lives at Nolin Lake. Visit his website at amazon.com/author/markheinzbooks.