My first day of Air Force Security Forces (military police) training, our team stood in front of a wall photos of fallen Defenders. The first was of Airman First Class Elizabeth Jacobson, the first Security Forces member and first female Airman to die in Operation Iraqi Freedom. It was a sobering reminder of what we had signed up for, described as having written a blank check to the government, up to and including your life. I had two daughters at home, one who couldn’t yet walk, and I had signed that very check.
I’m a veteran now, but each morning my husband laces up his boots, waiting for the day he’ll be told it’s his turn to return to war. With every move, I hang his commendations on our new walls while he sighs that it’s not necessary, people don’t care. I say that’s not true, that I’m proud of him and I feel that pride anew every time I dust the frames. He continues to serve with dedication, despite the defective ear plugs and burn pits the Department of Defense said were fine.
Too often we change our social media profiles to a photo of the SF badge with a black line, mourning another Defender’s death. When our now-president called John McCain a loser, I was incensed. Politically, I usually disagreed with the senator, but I respected him as a fellow veteran; one whose blank check had included 5.5 years of captivity.
Since then, I’ve watched this president disparage a Gold Star family, take credit for pay raises that have happened long before him, say he knows more than the generals who lead their troops with dignity, who deeply feel each loss and work daily to keep them out of harm’s way, and say he’s received more training than the military because a school taught him how to make a bed.
My DD-214 is a decade old, but I’ll put money on my ability to still break down, reassemble and function-check an M4 before the president figures out we’re talking about a weapon. For five years, I’ve watched him disparage my fellow veterans, politicize military service and disrespect those who’ve brought home more troops than President Trump will ever lay eyes upon, and I watched Mrs. Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden’s Joining Forces initiative disappear hours after he was sworn in. I’m still watching him disrespect military families like mine and veterans like me. And I’m watching as Vice President Joe Biden continues his legacy of respecting and supporting us. Vice President and Dr. Biden know what it feels like to hope your loved one comes home — and wonder whether they’ll be the same if they do. They know the struggles our families face and have committed to address them.
Vice President Biden wants to do more than give our troops nominal pay raises; he wants to rework the pay scale so that no service member faces food insecurity. He wants to make our lives better by keeping us at our duty stations longer, so our kids don’t spend each year being either new or already packing. He wants military spouses to be able to build careers, make our childcare programs better and offer real support to those who care for injured service members.
I began my work in politics after President Trump disparaged my fellow veterans and the Gold Star families who paid a price he cannot understand (“What’s in it for them?”), vowing to help elect a president who knows what it means to support our troops and what it is to wear a yellow ribbon. This election, voters’ choices are between someone who calls our heroes “losers” and Vice President Biden, whose respect for our military and veterans has never wavered.
As I wait for the next time my friends, my husband and my brother — who followed in my Air Force footsteps, just as I followed in my grandfather’s — get their orders to return to war, it is my honor to cast my ballot for Vice President Biden, secure in the knowledge that in him, we will again have a Commander-in-Chief whose respect for the troops is real.
Our service members, veterans, military families and our country deserve nothing less.
Nina Sanchez Hebert is a veteran of the USAF Military Police and Communications Director of the Wyoming Democratic Party.
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