Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


September 10, 2012

Political nature: Service in Afghanistan underscores the importance of voting

Growing up in the town of Bluefield, Va., my family was apolitical in nature. My parents always voted in the national elections, but they had no true allegiance to any particular party. In my experience, this has served me well in my military career. Having served nearly 19 years in the U.S. Army, and attaining the rank of Major, I continue to follow in the tradition of my parents. The rules and regulations of military service members prevent us from actively participating in political events, and the picture can become a bit blurry as to what is considered active participation and what is not.

The general consensus or theme that best describes the rules regarding military members and political matters is not participating in an political event that could reasonably be perceived by the public as suggesting favoritism for one party or another. Simply put, as members of the military, and employees of the federal government, we are not to give the perception to those outside of the military that we have a “dog in the fight.” Certainly, many members of the military have a favorite party or candidate, but we are not allowed to campaign or openly express our views that would suggest bias.

For some members of the military, this can be very difficult, particularly if they were raised in a family that is political. Certainly, it’s OK to be from a family that loves or admires politics, but I feel future military members of this background may have more difficulty following the rules compared to military members who have a background where politics are viewed as neutral, or valued less than many other things in life such as religion, sports, work ethic, entrepreneurship, etc. I want to be clear that there is nothing wrong with being very political, or favoring one party or the other, and even actively participating in politics for those outside of the military, but for active-duty service members, we are not to do this publicly.

As for my vote in this upcoming election, as you might suspect, I will not tell you who I will vote for. The most important matter is that I will certainly vote. I’m proud to be a commissioned officer in the United States Army, and one of the reasons for this pride stems from knowing I go to work every day enhancing and serving a cause that helps us keep the right to vote. Since age 18, I have always voted, but even on election day I was never in an extreme rush to get to the polling booth. Simply put, it was something I just did because it was the day we were supposed to vote. After serving in Afghanistan and realizing that for the Afghani population voting can result in the loss of life and get a person killed, I will no longer just go through the motions on election day. I will be one of the first at the polling booth.

— Joshua B. Compton, Maj., U.S. Army

Fort Belvoir, Va.


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